My mission was the hardest mission ever.

All easy missions are alike; every hard mission is hard in its own way.

Tolstoy knew jack squat about missionary work, but when you talk to someone who has served a really hard mission, you can hear it in their voice (distant, faint), see in their eyes (hollow, sunken) and read it in their words (confused, beaten). Craig Harline, decades on, still has these lingering symptoms. He served in a hard mission, you see. What exactly do we mean when we talk about hard missions? What are the easy missions? Dear Reader, I have the answers.

Let’s be clear: a hard mission has little to do with physical comfort. Physical comfort plays a tangential role, a supporting role; the weather is the exterior reflection of how terrible the mission itself, as if the Shakespearean Great Chain of Being were reflected, Lear-like, in the mood of the mission. Nor is the hardness to be found in the bizarre, inedible food or the inevitable digestive hijinks that ensue.

Here are the key criteria for a hard mission:
1. Nobody to teach
2. Nothing to do all day
3. Mean, mean people*

You need all three to have a hard mission. If you have nobody to teach but you have activities enough to keep you busy and you know nice people to talk to, you’re set. If you have nothing to do all day, the people are awful but you’ve got investigators, you’re fine. But when you have none of these, my friend, you’re going to have to be inventive. Tracting will be awful and awfully ineffective. The members will not furnish you with contacts. It means that you will feel, with some frequency, that you are a failure. It means that the folks at home will not understand.

Go on; tell me why your mission was harder than mine. But it wasn’t.

————————
*love the people.

Comments

  1. Mine was like a 4/10. Southern people can occasionally be mean but being in the first world with a car means there’s usually SOMETHING you can do. Also, I claim an additional personal hardship point for having a mission president who did not understand or spiritually uplift me at all. Therefore, 5/10.

  2. C’mon man, a car and in the South, like with BBQ and everything. Pffffft.

  3. Didn’t serve a mission, but showed the list to my husband. His mission was a different kind of hard. Numbers 1 and 2 didn’t apply, he was plenty busy. His question, “Where would he rank fearing for your life? Not that *I* ever hid in a closet from my axe-wielding companion, but …”

  4. “Different kind of hard” = NOT HARD.

  5. Southern food means no mission in the south can rate harder than average. Mmm.

  6. Correct.

  7. Steve, my apologies. Serving in a politically unstable third world West African nation cannot approach the horrific trauma of first-world apathy. ;)

  8. Mary Ann, that’s EXACTLY RIGHT. He probably got horrible diseases, ate funky food and was afraid for his life, but that is NOT THAT HARD. Anyone who lives in South Jordan has had that experience.

  9. Laura Stewart says:

    “Different kind of hard= not that hard.” Por favor. My husband served in a mission where, like you, he wasn’t expected to have baptisms. I served in a mission where if I went a month without baptisms, I was programmed to question my worthiness and faith. My husbands mission president was a “teach you correct principles and let you govern yourself” sort of fellow and mine linked all outcomes to obedience or lack thereof. What’s agency? Never heard of it. I once heard my mission president, who is now a general authority, say that the other mission was in apostasy because their sisters didn’t wear nylons. It must’ve been my ugly tan control top tights that gave me extra success in those hot summer months. Glad we have people with such sound judgement heading the church these days. I had lots of baptisms but if I wasn’t baptizing like Alma at the waters of Mormon it was obviously my fault. I’d put money on a decrease in cases of depression and anxiety in missions if mission presidents didnt lead through shaming and teaching utter crap to impressionable missionaries. My mission was actually awesome in a lot of ways, but it was definitely in spite of idiot leaders, not because of them.

  10. See, your last sentence nails it: NOT A HARD MISSION. People who had hard missions don’t say things like “my mission was actually awesome in a lot of ways,” because it wasn’t.

    I never said that I wasn’t expected to have baptisms, btw. I had pressures similar to yours.

  11. I mean, except for the control tops.

  12. Laura Stewart says:

    Steve: oh come on…You didn’t meet any awesome people on your awful mission? Don’t but it.

  13. Laura Stewart says:

    *buy it.

  14. I’ll never tell.

  15. I served my mission 45 years ago. Wow! Mine was “hard” because I suffered from PTSD & Depression & there were only lousy meds in those days PLUS “depression” was officially a spiritual disease where I “didn’t have the spirit” and many other shaming and non-doctrinal techniques by leaders. I agree with one of the “above” where AGENCY was not considered–
    if you do your job and teach well, you know that sometimes one or two or three or more people in a family have a testinony and just need to make a decision. Also, our president was a salesman and set us up in competition with each other. Once I got a Golden Referral by my efforts then had to turn it over to the Elders From Hell in another terriitory. They got “credit” and there was no promotion of Zone Teamwork. So Zone Leaders made sure their area was constructed to have the most cooperative members, etc——YES I agree that creating huge guilt complexes was Not Of God—-Philosophies of Men mingled with scripture, etc. I hope this happens less now than in those days—-the lesson I learned through misery (my last 6 or 8 months mainly) is that you can onlly control your own decisions and everyone needs encouragement. If you cant as a leader be firm without being encouraging then be silent!!!! I believe now in a Loving Christ who likely wept with me back when I felt like a hard-working & dedicated failure. Share the Loving Truth!! It’s hard for anyone to come back from a discouraging mission, too & we need to be On the lookout for individuals who are discouraged and afraid to say anything.

  16. Q: Did you serve in Finland?

    If Yes, proceed to comment.

    If No, sit down and shut the heck up.

  17. Someone tried to kill me, and I had several moments where I had to talk people out of suicide, including one particularly scarring moment where I wasn’t successful.

    Really was a great moment for me. A lot of fantastic memories and great friendships.

  18. John Mansfield says:

    I served in the best mission in the world, just as my patriarchal blessing said would happen. “Hard mission”? Is that like a hard mattress? Not really hard, just harder than is comfortable for one accustomed to fluffy softness?

  19. I spent 3 months in a heavily Catholic city where your criteria were met (nobody to teach; nothing to do all day; mean, mean people). My trainer and I were opening up a new area, there were six missionaries in a tiny, tiny branch (which has since closed down), and we tracted all day, every day. We’d go out on the streets to street contact and our background music was everyone whispering “Jehovah Witnesses” as they moved to the other side of the street.

    Later I spent two months of hell with an emotionally abusive mission companion.

    But the rest of my mission? Definitely not the hardest. The death threat? Not a big deal. Things like the knife shook in my face, never having a car (despite really needing one), having bicycles stolen–they were all minor inconveniences compared to that first area. Why? Because after that first area, we always had at least some people to teach and members to visit.

    So no, not the hardest mission ever, though it had its months.

  20. A Happy Hubby says:

    I had #1 (all day long every day was tracting) and a good dose of #2, but not many mean people. The few mean people were offset by the nice members. So I would call my mission a wonderful and boring mission. I am going to really drill into my kids before their mission not to bite into the “ALL blessings (baptisms) are 100% attributable to YOUR worthiness”. They need to be worthy because they need to be worthy, not to score baptisms. They need to work hard because they need to learn to work hard and not to score baptisms.

  21. *i* know hard missions. I mean, one afternoon the Mediterranean wasn’t as blue as it should have been, and another day the snow in the Alps wasn’t as deep as it should have been. Beat *that*, slackers.

  22. Finland is for accountants and hipsters.

  23. Glenstorm says:

    The hardest part of my mission was thinking that with everything I was doing/had done, I had not yet done /enough/ and was failing (including at being a friend to my emotionally abusive companion who yelled at me every other day and at all the other things missionaries are supposed to be doing [finding, teaching, baptizing, etc.]), to the eternal detriment of both me and my investigators. That’s why I don’t blame the mission itself as much as my out-of-control perfectionism mixed with a guilt complex and a focus on (illusively possible) exact obedience.

  24. Geoff - Aus says:

    My family joined the church in Australia in 1958, when I was 10, by the time I was 12 we were on a building mission in Scotland. My father was the building supervisor, with a wife and 4 children. At this time the buildings were built by volunteer labour from the members, but someone in authority had decided that a new building in an area where missionary work was not progressing, would somehow attract members. Can you see a problem volunteer labour where there a few members. When we got to our first town the branch consisted of 2 missionaries and half a dozen teenage girls. The volunteers worked 3 nights a week plus Saturday. I did too. We built a standard sized chapel in 2 and a half years. The girls competed with the building missionaries to see who could wheel a barrow with most bricks.
    Usually building missionary supervisors were retired Americans, who do one building in 2 years, then go home. We continued building another and another, selling our house and living frugally for 8 years. My father was then employed by the church to manage the building and maintenance in UK which was paid employment. While we were doing this we had a mission president who replaced the GM supplied mission car with a jaguar. He became an Apostle.
    My education was sacrificed because we moved every couple of years.
    I had no ongoing friends for the same reason.
    I was separated from my extended family, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents.
    At about the time my father started employment 1968 I went on my full time mission to Ireland, where there was a shooting and bombing war going on between the Catholics and the protestants. The rumour had it our MP had been called on a mission to reactivate him. I am not aware of ever having an interview with him.
    Along with my companion I baptised 2 people. I had one companion who had a music collection and a large sound system. I had another who had a playboy collection. I had a district leader whose girl friend came to visit and they went off for a week together.
    I was moved 50 times and had one area twice, where we tracted 80 hours a week for 3 months and got into one house. My companion sold the woman a BOM, but I took it back because no one in the house could read. She let us in because she thought we were catholic priests.
    Most of the year it was cold and wet so we usually wore women’s tights, then long underwear then our suits then long coats and large brimmed (gangster sized) hats so the rain would drain off. There were no members in our area, but we did spend some time each day in a catholic church, which was dry and peaceful.
    In Northern Ireland there ware Catholic Mormons and Protestant Mormons, because of the troubles, and the fact that the catholics all lived in a suburb, and the protestants in another suburb, so if you converted someone, the suburb still determined who they fought for, where the kids went to school etc. If they didn’t continue to support their suburb they were likely to have their house fire bombed. The MP didn’t seem to realise this, so when he called a new Branch President who was a catholic Mormon all the protestant Mormons stopped coming. If a catholic associated with a protestant that was also punished by their neighbours even if they were both Mormons.
    By the time I came home I had been on missions for 10 years, none of them very rewarding, except for meeting my wife in England. At the time conference talks, telling RM to get married and not use birth control to delay your family, were common. Education, lack of employment, or money were not excuses. We were married 6 weeks after returning from Ireland, and had 3 children in the first 3 years.
    I had a brother who went to the Philippians, and would have people approach him in the street to teach them, and turn them away because they were booked out.
    I believe how difficult or otherwise your mission is has quite an effect on you life, attitudes to life, and how you view the church.

  25. Man Geoff you’ve had a pretty cushy go of things.

  26. My mission was hard, partly because it was in South Korea, which makes Finland curl up in a ball and cry like a terrified little girl. But mostly, in retrospect, it was hard probably because I was an immature, paranoid, often self-centered jerk. (I and it did get better, eventually, a little bit anyway.)

  27. Steve served in France, don’t let him kid you. It may be the armpit of the Lord’s vineyard but it’s far from a difficult mission. The food is amazing, the people are friendly if not consistently indiffertent to religion but they’re more than willing to philosophize with you over a cup of chocolat chaud, a tisane, or a limonade. You especially find interest from the seniors who have fond recollections of Americans from the Wars, the unemployed who “fait un depresssion” but live comfortably on chaumage and are happy to have a distraction, especially if you can play Mario Brothers, and of course the impressionable young women who adore the accent but are insulted that you refuse to offer a bisou on both cheeks and whisper to each other wondering if you’re actually gay. They think you’re strange because you don’t tu-toi them even though you want to discuss such intimate topics as religious beliefs and spiritual feelings.

    And more importantly, unless he was constantly situated in only complete backwaters of France then he regularly encountered Africans and other foreigners who were less scarred by the absurdity of life that imbues the French mindset and therefore possessed a more open mind and heart to the Spirit. They of course rarely kept their commitments and always seemed to be gone to Paris or Freetown or Kinshasa when you arrived at their doorstep but the spirit was powerful when you actually did meet.

    Yes, it was difficult to baptize and yes you were always only on bikes or occasionally buses unless you were raised to ZL responsibilities who always seemed self righteous in their beliefs that they clearly had the keys to baptism if only because had some dubious methods of counting and baptizing. Yes, it’s one of the few countries in the world where more than one mission was shut down due to apostasy of the missionaries. Yes, it’s the land where everyone is catholique but non-pratiquant. But it is also the land of baguettes, pain au chocolat, crepes and nutella which would explain why so many Elders gained 10-15 pounds in the first 6 months.

    Nah, I’m not buying it Steve. Definitely NOT HARD.

  28. I spent 3 months in a heavily Catholic city where your criteria were met

    3 months = NOT THAT HARD :)

    Steve, I didn’t realize you served in Italy Catania. I thought I had gleaned from some post somewhere that you went to France. Didn’t they have bikes in France? Bikes = NOT THAT HARD.

  29. I’m sure that some missionaries in my mission had it easy. Not me! SUPER HARD.

  30. No bikes for me!

  31. I know plenty of people who feel that their mission president had a negative impact on the mission experience for them, so I nominate bad mission president as the fourth criterion for a hard mission. I’ll allow others do define what constitutes a bad mission president. Having said that, I readily admit that I did not have a hard mission by any of these definitions.

  32. I think you can have a hard mission without a bad MP, but I agree that a bad MP really sucks. If you have all four, we’ll call that mission “Ultra Hard.” I did not have an ultra hard mission the entire time.

  33. Berlin. Loved it. Plenty of discouraging times in terms of the utterly ineffective mid-twentieth century American sales techniques we were expected to use (primarily door to door tracting), but what a great place, language, culture, people! What amazing members! I learned a lifetime worth of lessons about faithful LDS living from the stalwart members in East Germany.

    I know a lot of people considered it a hard mission and the work was really hard sometimes, especially when your #1 & 2 were met. But what can I say, I guess I just really liked walking around the cities and towns of northeast Germany in the mid 1990s. It was an interesting time. I’m just lucky that I loved it and that it was a wonderful and spiritual experience for me most of the time. Great mission presidents, for the most part nice and competent and sincere fellow missionaries, and, as said, truly amazing members who had remained strong and faithful during the long night of living behind the Iron Curtain.

  34. John, you loved the people.

  35. My mission was much like John’s description of his, but western Germany, so I’m not in the running for hardest mission ever (loved it!), but like Gilliam suggested, shouldn’t you be docked points from hardest mission ever for culture and food? Doesn’t the life-long coolness factor of having lived for two years in France or Sicily or Japan make up for some of the pain?

  36. Steve served in Paris, France and he sure lays it on thick back in 2012 in his vicarious assessment of the mission that shaped Mitt Romney.

    Man on a mission: Mitt Romney in France

    No he didn’t have bikes, he rode buses, the Metro and walked. A very cushy mission.

  37. Public transportation does not make it easier!

  38. Don’t worry….the wambulance has been called.

  39. My mission definitely wasn’t the hardest, but I really think your criteria hit the nail on the head, Steve. I vividly remember the soul-sucking feeling of knowing in the morning that all I had to look forward to was ten hours of tracting at houses that were either empty or were home to evangelical Christians who were happy to tell us (1) to go to hell, and (2) that we were already headed for hell by virtue of being Mormon.

    I also like Q’s suggestion for getting to the ultra hard label. The whole denial of anyone’s agency except my own in people deciding to get baptized made me absolutely insane. Looking back at my mission journals, it’s by far the number one thing I complained about. My mission president definitely pushed the idea. At the time, I was grateful that he didn’t push it as hard as his predecessor, who was legendary for pushing missionaries to baptize baptize baptize, with no thought for what would happen tomorrow. But looking back, I wish he would have backed off entirely from the previous president’s insane ideas instead of just backing off partway.

    Also, this is only an honorary hard experience, but I did spend a couple of months with an emotionally abusive companion who criticized every last thing I did and threatened in an I’m-not-sure-if-he’s-joking way to push me into traffic because “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” After the mission, he went on to murder several people with his brother when their scheme to defraud people of their retirement savings went south. I felt validated to learn this, because it confirmed that yes, he really was nuts, and it wasn’t my fault.

  40. Wow! A murderer! Let’s face it, that’s a good story.

  41. Want to weigh in here – I served in Argentina…and it was a super easy mission. That is all.

  42. Nobody cries for Argentina.

  43. I think it’s cute how RAF tries to act like South Korea is scary. That’s North Korea, bro! South Korea is the land of Kia.

  44. He was all gangnam style up in there.

  45. Christian J says:

    Steve, I trained 2 elders (one from Brazil, one from Mongolia) in Orem (as in Utah) for 2 transfers. We had DA’s (dinner appointments) by night and were accused of escaping the MTC by day. The end.

  46. Austria Vienna Mission 1995. I win. I mean, I lose.

    Like Paris, le culture/die Kultur atmosphere is a red herring, as are the mountains which only exist to mock you from the horizon. It’s 99% tracting in suburban housing blocks and boring satellite towns with Steve’s #1,2,3 the norm. Apply Grant von Harrison to this nightmare and it’s basically the third circle of hell.

  47. Ronan, wonderful places to be when you’re not a missionary!

  48. Ziff adds in an important consideration: degree of insanity of your companion. That should be criteria #6. I never had any psychotic companions but there was a Sister in my District who was and I feared for her companion. This was back in the day before the Church began taking mental illness seriously.

    I had one companion who was completely despondent and homesick and I was regularly reminded by my MP to keep an eye on him with concerns that he might potentially hurt himself. I had another companion who had completely given up. He had spent all but 3 months in the mission office and was transferred out to the field because he had become too comfortable. Well, in protest he decided that he would do nothing and all he was willing to do was go sit in the park all day long and watch the ducks. I did a great deal of street contacting while staying within sight of him but I’m pretty sure within the first week the word around town was to avoid the park due to the missionary infestation. Eventually our MP relented and an excruciating month later he was transferred back to the office.

  49. Wait, what was #5?

  50. Yeah. Vienna is the best city to live in on earth. As a civvy.

  51. 2nd best.

  52. Oh wait, I lost count. #4 was hard core mission president. #5 should be crazy companions

  53. I went back to Europe several years after the mission. Solo backpacking trip. It amazed me how incredibly friendly the people were, especially outside the heavy tourist areas. One example–I opened up a map outside the train station of a former area of mine, and within one minute two different people approached asking if I needed directions. Fantasticly nice people when they’re not afraid you’re out trying to convert them.

  54. My mission had it’s own set of rules on top of the white handbook. They were copied on green paper and inserted into our white ones. We were never allowed to ride in cars (under ANY circumstances), be at a member’s house for more than an hour (no matter WHAT), never gather with other missionaries on P-day, handshakes were limited to 3 seconds or less (or was that in the white handbook?) etc etc. Our mission president had no interest in having sisters in his mission. That strictness and distrust from above combined with your 1, 2, and 3 made for a hard mission.

    That said, I will encourage my children to serve–it was an important experience for me.

  55. ESO, I agree with you there.

  56. I went to northern Spain, which easily meets those 3 criteria (except maybe the last one; Spaniards are just utterly disinterested in our evangelizing, but usually only impassive, not mean).

  57. John Mansfield says:

    Assuming for the sake of argument that there really is such a thing as a “hard mission,” maybe some special saints are sent to serve in such places because of special qualities they were given, such as an overwhelming need to gripe.

  58. Christian J says:

    Sure, Orem can be full of nice people if you’re an American. If you’re from Mongolia or Madagascar, you’re inundated with questions about your “tribe” back home.

  59. John, or maybe their parents sinned. Or maybe the Lord wanted to prepare them to deal with inane blog comments.

  60. Second what was said about South Korea up-thread. 5 of my 9 companions have since left the church. Either it was me or the mission. But I am still friends with them all, so…

    Also, good friend from mission and still today told by MP, upon opening up about his struggles as a missionary, that his homosexuality was disgusting and from Satan himself. This was in the 2000s. QED?

  61. Owen Witesman says:

    Finland. Most time spent wandering around wondering what the heck we were supposed to be doing with our time, which becomes a special kind of madness, and we basically never taught. I may have cracked the last three discussions once or twice. Fails at worst mission though since we had sauna (now verboten), were allowed to swim (also a thing of the past), and there were usually some young men in the ward willing to hook up for ping pong after English class. Twenty years later I still fly back to go on fishing trips with those guys. And to echo previous comments, life as a civilian in Europe is completely different. The church should send everyone back on vacation after a few years as therapy.

  62. Southern France in the mid-1970s (pre-June 1978, but that’s a whole other story …). ‘Nuff said? Tracting 8+ hours a day. Vigorous debates in priesthood and Sunday School (actually, more like verbal altercations–feelings hurt, threats of never to return to church again, etc.). Apartment burgled; physically assaulted (head-butted–companion, half a block up the street from me, thought I’d been stabbed). No cars. Bicycles, yes, but this just meant traveling longer distances (100+ k’s some days). Accidentally stumbling on a nudist beach (awkward …). I could go on. And yet I wouldn’t change it for anything.

  63. Gary, sounds about right. Not to mention mass apostasy!

  64. Mephibosheth says:

    Went to England. Lots of 1 and 2. Many times I did not bother to fill out the planner for the week because it would just be tracting-lunch-tracting-dinner-tracting. The worst is a cold, dark, winter night with nothing to do but tract. People answer the door in their pajamas at 6pm and ask you WTF you’re doing knocking on people’s doors at night.

    That said, at least I could communicate in English and so without the added difficulty of learning a language I was able to focus on getting better at teaching the gospel, communicating with people, and thinking on my feet, skills that have since served me well in the church and professionally. I had a great mission president, great companions, lived in some great cities, and met some great people. VERDICT: medium hard.

  65. I would think most of the UK would be medium hard, hard at times. But you had it easy.

  66. My mission fits all the criteria. And it was the lowest baptizing mission in England, which says a lot. It has since closed down. The only people to love were RJH’s parents. I met one of the last two remaining active members from the infamous Baseball Baptisms, and he told me was hanging on by a thread and planning to go inactive as soon as his teens were grown.

  67. I was attacked by a drunken sailor, not just once. My mission was so hard the only way to exit was through a volcanic fissure.

  68. I have a drunken story too. I was compelled to hold clammy hands with a drunken business man for a couple of hours while we ate various, not-so-tasty raw meats. Hand holding between males in Korea is somewhat normal, but not really for two hours. Worst part? He was holding my chopsticks hand so I was a mess in the restaurant.

  69. Japan in the early 1970s was not a hard mission. And my companion didn’t haul off and hit me, even though I probably deserved it. Actually, strike “probably.”

  70. New York New York City (Greek), 1980-1982. My companions and I were the first Greek-language missionaries called in this dispensation, and we easily had all three of those factors. The Greeks were stubborn, condescending, closed-minded, and prideful beyond belief. They were also subject to a cultural bias that I don’t think even Roman Catholics living in Italy have: their feeling was that if you’re not Greek Orthodox (it’s called that for a reason), you’re not Greek, so anyone who converted (not that my companions and I ever baptized any of them — we didn’t!) was basically dead to anyone else in the culture (we had a handful of pre-converted members, one of whom never had the courage to tell his parents, lest he be disowned — and he was in his mid-40s!) And as for the regular members? Forget it — they simply didn’t have any Greek relatives or acquaintances to refer to us. Also, we only had the Bible, about a third of the Book of Mormon, and a few missionary pamphlets that had been translated into Greek, along with the discussions. Try teaching when you can’t even teach the full scriptures in the language because they don’t exist yet!

  71. Xander Harris says:

    Now I have Easy Mission Guilt.

  72. My patriarchal blessing tells me that I would serve a lifelong mission as an example of Christ and that many would join the church through their friendship with me. I have had 7 friends plus 3 husband’s all join the church. I was the primary person they knew who was/is LDS before they took the discussions and joined the church.

    I had another friend who almost joined the church, but finding out I couldn’t baptize him led to lots of other equality/feminist concerns. He still follows the church standards, reads the Book of Mormon, and pays tithes and offerings to churches and organizations which are transparent about their finances, but he has decided that he wasn’t interested in a marriage where he was seen as having authority that his wife didn’t.

    I often tease him that the reason he isn’t married is because he joined the church. He then reminds me that my first two husbands joining the church created the justification for the actions and treatment that led to divorce. I think part of the reason my current husband (and last) has chosen not to be ordained to the Melchezidak priesthood, comes from the discussions with that particular friend.

    So I guess my mission score is still in process. ;-)

  73. Tim, new idea for an approach to missionary work. Send a bunch of people with language skills over to Europe for 6 months of backpacking at a time and just trust that they’ll chat up both locals and fellow travelers about the Gospel!

  74. I have easy mission guilt too. I served in the Fiji Islands. We never had a door shut in our face (ever). I lived next to an idyllic tropical bay for months, had a dog, drove a truck, ran the local branch and baptized over 50 wonderful people, mostly in the warm waters of the south seas bay I lived next to.

    Oh wait, I once had a difficult companion, do I get any points for that?

  75. Fiji! Oh man.

  76. wow, that does sound amazing, Porter!

  77. Scott Heffernan,

    Wait . . . what?

  78. Actually, Scott, I think I remember that conversation at MMM. Didn’t you meet the Queen in Worcester or something?

  79. RJH,
    Yes, at MMM. We put it all together. I was in the ward for 8 months. Yes, met the queen in Worcester. Got a good photo of it.
    (And of course I was joking when I said your parents were the ONLY people to love.)

  80. Anon for this says:

    “The church should send everyone back on vacation after a few years as therapy.” Agreed. I also served a European mission, and couldn’t wait to get home, pleasant surroundings notwithstanding. My wife dragged me back and I turned out to love the place and have gone back several times.

    We once had a visiting General Authority ask us what would be the most effective thing in our mission, and there was lots of grumbled “nuke it from the air, and do baptisms for the dead?” I thought that was a fairly common joke (read: really cynical survival mechanism) among missionaries, but the US missionaries I talked to recently doubled up with laughter, having never heard it.

    I didn’t memorize my last few discussions until I’d been out for over a year. There was no need. Ditto for the planners. Rarely had anything to put on them.

  81. Kevin Barney says:

    By these standards my mission (Colorado, late 70s) was easy peasy. To wit:

    1. Lots of Mormons, so well established church units.
    2. But it wasn’t Utah (or Idaho).
    3. I had a car for the majority of my time there.
    4. My first MP was anti-tracting (he was way into working through the members, which was possible since this was Colorado). My second tried to bring tracting back, even on a limited basis, but the anti-tracting attitude was so ingrained in the mission culture that he never really succeeded.
    5. Both my MPs were good guys, nothing Nazi about them.
    6. Beautiful mountains, which we on occasion would explore.
    7. I couldn’t compete with the Apes and ZLs for baptism numbers (it was possible to exceed 100 for your mish there), but I ended up with something (I want to say 37, I’d have to check my journal) a little above the mission average (24).
    8. Lots of cute Laurels that for some inexplicable reason liked flirting with me.
    9. I served before the crazy rules limiting what books you could read or not letting you teach a woman without an extra chaperone.

  82. Christian J says:

    But Orem! Orem people.

  83. Based on the MP criterion, Italy Catania was not an ULTRA HARD mission while I was there, but we did have an ULTRA HARD WEEK when I was in the office and Elder Lasater of the 70 visited the mission.

    I love the vacation idea. You’d be surprised, Amy T, at how little mileage I ever got out of the coolness factor. Even being able to cuss people out in Sicilian, while emotionally satisfying, doesn’t seem to impress much.

  84. Gilgamesh says:

    Northern Italy in the 90’s. Lots of #1 and #2, a few cities with #3. I was in one city with a total of 4 members (one was convinced he was a member of the IRA and was living incognito in Italy). Nothing but tracting, was propositioned by an old prostitute every evening and had a companion that refused to wear a white shirt and tie.

    That said, I don’t think #3 is really a fair judge of a hard mission. I think it has as much to do with the personalities of the missionaries as it does with the people. I had one day where we rang bells and knocked doors without one message being shared. By 5:00pm, we were at 1000 and figured we could make a game of it and see how many doors we could fail at before the end of the day. We finally ended at 1500 with no positive responses or lessons taught. I could have seen that day as a failure, but it is now one of my favorite stories to tell.

    I found Italians were happy to argue about anything which could seem mean, but as I got to know them and learned to argue back (not about religion, but soccer, politics, etc..) they were very friendly. I had a companion who refused to learn anything about the culture and the people and he hated every minute of his mission. I learned to love the quirkiness and ended up really enjoying my time even if it meant tracting all day, everyday.

  85. Christian J says:

    My first area was BYU campus. Saw friends of mine all the time. The elder I replaced, saw his girlfriend on campus one day – kissing some dude.

  86. I think a no-napping rule should also be considered when evaluating the awfulness of a mission.

    I vote Finland as hardest mission–based on above comments.

    Gilgamesh, we may have been in the same mish–Padova, ’96-’98 for me.

  87. Ouch, Christian J.

  88. From the first sentence, I thought I was reading Anna Karenina. :)

  89. Basically, you were!

  90. I found this picture of John Fowles on his Berlin mission.

  91. that’s an amazing compliment, gst! Here’s an actual photo showing me and my brother Jordan standing at the Victory Column (Siegessäule) in Berlin, both as missionaries.

  92. Gilgamesh says:

    Yes Corrina, same mission. I helped reopen it an you helped close it :)

  93. Gilgamesh, lol. I won’t take that personally. ;)

  94. South Korea. Spent 3 months working with deaf Koreans, “speaking”, of course, in Korean Sign Language, which they don’t teach at the MTC. Had John Hinkley as a companion, but never met Jodie Foster.

  95. There are a lot “harder” things in this world than having nothing to do and have people being mean to you. Here is just sample of much harder stuff that happened in the mid 90s in Chile.

    – There was an ENORMOUS amount of pressure to baptize and hit numbers. If you didn’t hit your monthly unrealistic double-digit baptism goals, you were blacklisted by the mission president and the APs.
    – You were told that you had prayed and committed to those baptism numbers for the month, so if you didn’t hit them, obviously you were a bad person.
    – You were told you had no faith and obviously were a bad missionary who must be sinning.
    – You were put in crappy areas of the mission and given no support.
    – You were made to feel bad about yourself.
    – Your mail was delayed getting to you because you needed to focus.
    – You were pressured to do things you knew were wrong, but everyone else was doing it.
    – You were told if you really had faith, you would carry your white baptismal clothes with you all the time because you would meet people who needed a baptism.
    – On the other hand, “high performing” (defined by 1 thing: # of baptisms) missionaries were rewarded with special dinners, extra phone calls home, gifts, trophies, and leeway with the rules. Of course they got these numbers by holding soccer games with a group “swim” afterwards in the font. They just have to say a quick prayer and literally dunk you first. Or if you are short a few baptisms, just go to the local cemetery. All the facts about a person are right there on the gravestone.

    Want to talk about “hard”? Have you ever gone looking for an inactive 16 year old boy only to meet his Mom and have her tell you that he is severely handicapped and one day they found him dripping wet on the steps of the church because some pressured missionaries baptized him because “hey everyone needs a baptism”? Have you ever met teenage girls who were members of the Church because some Elders baptized them, went swimming with them, and made out with them, all in one afternoon? Try doing the Lord’s work when you know that there is only about a 5% active rate in the wards your investigators are going to join.

    “Hard” isn’t physical discomfort, a one-time life threatening incident, not getting along with a companion, bad food, bad weather, not having anyone to teach, or people being mean to you.

  96. Utah. Ultra-crazy mission president, who called only like-minded elders as ZLs and APs. Nearly unending string of emotionally abusive (and one physically abusive) companions. Seen as lazy, disobedient, worthless missionary for not baptizing ten people a month, every month.

    Also: not allowed to wear a hat in the wintertime. Had the tips of my ears freeze off as a result. Not kidding.

  97. Huh, my dad complains about being required to wear a hat, all the time, long after JFK and everyone else had stopped.

  98. John Doe: NOT A HARD MISSION.

  99. Glen, you should consider the possibility that you actually were a lazy, disobedient, worthless missionary. They’re out there somewhere!

  100. John Doe,

    Did you serve in Missouri?

  101. Steve, Yes, most of them were my companions.

    My MP’s last zone conference, he spent his very last hour with us telling us all the ways were we going to go to hell. Didn’t get up on time? Going to hell. Got your hair cut by a woman, against mission rules? Going to hell. Washing dishes with the lady of the house during a dinner appointment and accidentally touched elbows? Going to hell.

    We referred to it for months afterwards as the “Goin’ to Hell” Zone Conference.

    Then he was called as a General Authority.

  102. I don’t know anything about the process or criteria for calling Seventies, but I feel like their baptism numbers as a mission president may be a big factor. I had two very good mission presidents. One more “free agency” minded, the other more “obey with exactness” minded, but both very thoughtful, spiritual, and statistically successful. We had two different Seventies tour the mission while I was out there, and man did things get crazy when they came. It was meetings full of charts, graphs, catchy slogans, “new” programs, high pressure door approaches, “guilt the members” strategies, very little use of scriptures, Obey Obey Obey, and promises that sounded ultimatums. Each time it took a few months before the mission settled back to normal. I get that it is their job to inspire us to greatness, but needless to say, it was not inspiring.

  103. In Marseilles we thought that those spoiled missionaries in Paris had it easy…

  104. As the highest baptizing mission in Europe, we had a theory that the further north you went, the harder missions were. Further south, even if they were very Catholic (and unlikely to convert), they were very kind-hearted and warm toward strangers in ways they didn’t seem to be further north. Or so went our theory. I had a BF serving in Amsterdam who once said “Wow, your numbers down there are great. You guys must be really obedient.” After I finished wiping away the tears of laughter, I assured him that was not even remotely the case. But it does go to mind set.

    If a missionary is successful, nobody really questions it, but if a missionary isn’t baptizing, they must be unworthy or disobedient. They were practically living an Opus Dei existence in missions further north than ours with no joy and no results either. We had missionaries doing all kinds of crazy things without getting sent home, and we had high success rates. Time has shown we didn’t have great retention, but nobody busts your chops so long as those monthly baptism numbers are good.

  105. My mission fit criteria #1 #2 and #3 + 0 baptisms, but there were several things that mitigated these difficulties. I had a good mission president whose primary interest was the welfare of the missionaries. He didn’t emphasize numbers of baptisms, rather he wanted us to do our best at teaching with the opportunities that we were given. He emphisied over and over that we cannot take away someone’s agency to choose to be baptised, but we can have control over how well we decide to work and teach. He was also not a micromanager. We did not have too many ridiculous rules that interfered with the work. I see missionaries here in the states. They have many confining rules they have to live by. I may not have appreciated it at the time, but I would rather get doors slammed in my face and called unfamiliar words than deal with that. Also, biking in the rain, may not have been fun, but it sure beats having to bum rides off members.

    Yes, people could be mean, but it really helped to develope a thick skin. It also helped to learn to understand the people and how they thought. It was also helpful to speak a foreign language because insults and obscenities just don’t have the same impact as they do in your native tongue. Brining a sense of humor to your mission makes any mission easier.

    I was also able to get to know some really wonderful and examplary members. I still think of their strength and conviction today. Unfortunately many stateside missionaries seem to be rather isolated from the members, partly because of the many rules they must follow. Despite all the difficulties I really feel that I met people that I needed to meet. On good days I realized that it was a privelege to tell people about the gospel for the first time in their mortal existance even though they may not have been ready to receive it at the time.

    Each mission is hard in its own way. I really feel bad for those who have supar misison presidents, hard companions and psycological issues.

  106. Sara C, those who served in Paris were well aware of the lax standards and general apostasy of the southern missions. You made it hard on yourselves with your wanton disobedience to God’s rules.

  107. Angela C writes: As the highest baptizing mission in Europe, we had a theory that the further north you went, the harder missions were. Further south, even if they were very Catholic (and unlikely to convert), they were very kind-hearted and warm toward strangers in ways they didn’t seem to be further north. Or so went our theory.

    Theory-buster: Italy Catania. Sicily is as far south as you can get without being in Africa; my mission HQ is actually south of the Straits of Gibraltar and much of Tunisia. Nonetheless, although people were friendly and fun after they had knifed your companion and you got used to the arguments, it was still VERY HARD. ;)

  108. My family are members because of Finnish missionaries, so I thank all of the Finns for working through the dark winters and teaching English. Hopefully the joy of a proper sauna eases some of the pain.

  109. New Iconoclast’s comment reminds me of Miss South Carolina’s lament that some people can’t afford maps. If Catania was in fact the headquarters of the Italy Catania mission, it is north of both the Strait of Gibraltar and all of Tunisia. (Africa’s northernmost point, is at 37 degrees, 20 minutes north latitude, while Catania is at about 37 degrees, 30 minutes.)

    Catania is also north of Malaga, Spain, which looks like the winner for the southernmost mission HQ in Europe. And half of the Peloponnesian Peninsula is south of Catania. Including Kalamata. Kalamata may not have any missionaries, but it produces great olives.

  110. New Iconoclast & Mark B: Well, we were actually south of that. I was in the Canary Islands, off the cost of Morocco. It is now part of the Madrid mission, but when I served was its own mission.

  111. “…reminds me of Miss South Carolina’s lament that some people can’t afford maps.”

    This made me lol. Thanks.

  112. Hey Steve, it’s OK, those of us in the Belgium Brussels mission knew where the truly righteous were gathering in France and it was definitely North and East of Paris. In fact they got so good that the Church realized the only way to save Paris was to bolster it with their hard working northern Sisters and Elders. That’s the real reason why the dissolved the BB mission. lol

  113. Listen, as one who spent much time neat your hinterlands, I appreciate what you’re saying.

  114. primaryteacher says:

    Lol… I’d love to know who some of these GAs are. I’ve met a few of the 70 that I thought were nuts.

  115. I met all your criteria in Arkansas. And mean dogs. Mean and dangerous dogs. With teeth.

  116. Non-RM woman here. How do other people feel about finding the dead body of an investigator who hanged himself? My husband thought it was a hard mission experience, but I noticed it has the benefit of being a story to tell, along with the story of the attractive woman neighbor who casually spoke to them topless.

  117. I feel pretty good about it.

  118. I never knew there was such a thing as a “hard mission” until the internet and the blogernacle. Before the internet, all you had was homecoming talks that were always uplifting. Maybe is you had a close friend or relative, you would find out that sometimes missions could be hard. My mission (Chile Concepcion, mid 70’s) was easy compared to everything written above. I had easy MPs that stayed out of our hair (literally and figuratively!). We had plenty of people to teach, lots to do and see if we didn’t want to teach, and friendly people that would welcome you in the house, get you something to drink, and THEN ask you what you wanted! I never cooked my own meals, they were always prepared. Never washed my own clothes, and while ZL in a nice room we rented from a wealthy family, the maid would make our beds after we felt in the morning, and bring us breakfast in bed on P-days when we slept in! It was a little frustrating when I asked for eggs over hard, and they were a little runny!

  119. New Iconoclast, I was serving in Denmark when Elder Lasater came through, and after he was done, most of the missionaries referred to him as General Lasater. He told us we were the doormat of Europe, that missionary work wasn’t succeeding because of us, and that we’d be held accountable if we didn’t get our collective act together. The reaction of both missionaries and members was so negative that Carlos E. Asay was dispatched a few weeks later to smooth things over. A year later, some LDS tourists from Germany saw us and invited us in for lunch. Realizing I’d been out a while, they asked if I remembered Elder Lasater. I did, but said very little. They proceeded to say what a wonderful, inspiring experience it was to have him come, how baptisms in their area had more than doubled after he straightened them out, and that they were still on a spiritual high from it. They asked how things had changed in our mission. I decided not to tell them he’d made my mission president cry or that some of our missionaries had quit working altogether. God works in mysterious ways!

  120. Left Field says:

    Argentina’s an easy mission? Not according to that Bachman guy who claimed to have risked his life trying to avoid ferocious crocodiles (which don’t live in Argentina) and “poison-spitting toads” (which don’t live on Earth). Then again, forty million Argentinians must live daily with the same mortal fear, so my hat’s off to them.

    Lee Cox! We were mission buddies! Well…we were buddies in the sense that I’m pretty sure I’ve never met you. But I do remember when our mission got the first two Greek-speaking missionaries of the dispensation. I think we got Chinese and Polish at the same time.

  121. I hate raining on anybody’s parade — oh, who am I kidding? It’s after midnight and the Holy Ghost has gone to bed — but the first Greek-speaking missionaries in this dispensation were called to the Turkish mission in 1907. When the rest of the mission was closed down in 1909 for that pesky Genocide thing, the elders in Greece stayed in the field alone for another couple of years.

    Now that was a hard mission.

  122. Left Field says:

    My mission just got a lot harder, knowing our mission president lied to us.

    And don’t forget about the alligators in the sewers.

    And the poison-spitting cockroaches.

  123. Lew Scannon says:

    My mission almost 40 years ago in northern Germany was probably medium hard. I’ve read Craig’s book (he and I are the same age), and his mission was definitely harder than mine. The first part of my mission definitely met the criteria of #1 and #3, as well as my #4, a difficult companion. We always had something to do: tracting. But things improved significantly when a new mission president taught us how to tract. Before, it was slam, slam, swear, slam, slam, go back to America, slam. After, it was slam, long conversation at the door, slam, slam, come in for a few minutes, slam, medium-length conversation at the door, slam, yawn, come back some other time, slam, long conversation. All it took was understanding a little psychology. I actually enjoyed tracting after understanding how to do it right. (And if you’re wondering, it was a no-pressure approach, but it kept doors open.)

    That said, here’s a new twist. My mission, which I loved, has become more difficult over the years as even impressive spiritual experiences have raised questions that are difficult to answer. Also, of the few people I taught who eventually joined the Church, the only one who really remained true till he died was a man we hated because he committed adultery with our best investigator. Where does irony fall on the scale?

    And where would this rank on your list: taking your companion to the gynecologist (we were and are both male)?

  124. happily anonymous says:

    Yeia sou, Lee Cox.

    You at least got to live in New York City. I served in Greece in the mid-90’s, so I had all the joys you had, plus the fun of getting screamed at in public on a regular basis. Oh, and I was taken to jail twice. (Nothing heroic–they were for just an hour or two each time).

    But you’re right, Steve–the worst part was the boredom. During my two years, I got past the third discussion with investigators a grand total of twice. I was one of the more successful ones. I know several missionaries (most of the ones I served with, actually) who never taught a fourth discussion during their entire missions. It was not uncommon for us to door knock 9-10 hours a day for weeks at a time without ever teaching a discussion. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to go whole weeks without getting let inside an apartment, let alone actually be allowed to teach.

    Plus, our mission president, the general authorities who came through, and letters from family and friends back home would all regularly let us know that if we just had enough faith, we would teach more–meaning that, despite the 2000 years of history that the Greeks have with their church, our lack of missionary success was all our fault.

    But hey–at least the gyros were plentiful, cheap, and delicious. And I never got tapeworm like my brother who went to South America, so there was that.

  125. Italy. 2002 for me. Met criteria 1 and 2. The people loved their history and culture so much it made then very friendly and easy to love. Had a great MP. Loved my mission. What are others thoughts about becoming an effective missionary? For example, I was taught obedience is most important. But in hindsight I don’t think it’s fully true. Obedience is foundational but not the letter of the law. There was a very successful missionary on my mission who drove a lot of companions crazy because he was so “disobedient.” How? Leaving late, staying too long, listening to popular music, etc. However, he knew people well. Knew how to love and create relationships with anyone. He wasn’t very obedient but he didn’t break any commandments. While others were obsessing over the whitebook and knocking doors 18 hours a day, he’d be parking soccer with the locals at the park. I was always emotionally stuck for not feeling good enough and spent too much of my mission in a rut. I got out of it though and had a very very positive experience as a missionary. My advice to my kids? When people tell you to love the people that’s true. But no one tells you what that means. Moreover, love in your heart for people is not the same as truly engaging with people. Spend every moment indulging yourself in the culture and people and trying your very best to become true friends to all you meet. And have fun!

  126. Gilliam- Belgium Brussels, 96-98! Fraternité, frère!

  127. Mark B, congrats, you’re correct per my mission HQ. Being somewhat old school, I was carelessly using a ruler, so there was some margin of error, no doubt. It made little difference to the “Marrochini” who smuggled themselves over in shipping crates and sold knockoff watches on the streets in most towns.

    The southernmost elder-infested city in my mission, Ragusa, is at 36.9 degrees N, south of Bizerte, Tunisia (the north point) at 37.5 N, and about level with Tarifa, Spain, the southernmost point on the Iberian Peninsula, at 36.0 N. The south point of Sicily is at 35.3 deg N. We did put a senior couple in Malta while I was in the mission, but I never heard what became of them. For all I know, they’re still there.

    In the summer, half of the Sahara would blow across the strait to southern Sicily and down the back of your neck. It was like standing in front of a blow dryer.

    Ryan, another Italian Campaign vet, says, love in your heart for people is not the same as truly engaging with people. Very true, and also true that we don’t really tell you what it means to love the people. Some days I managed to love them AND engage, some days only love them, some days neither. But I find in thinking back that engaging always helped me love. Come to think of it, that works with my family, too.

  128. Y’all who regret never having taught the fourth discussion may not remember what was in it: BOTH the W of W and law of chastity. In Hungary ’93-’94 I taught lots of fourths, but very few fifths.

  129. yeah, the fourth was always a hard one in East Germany too (’95-’97). But the fifth and sixth were great, and, luckily, we taught plenty of those!

  130. I love Ardis’ comment so hard.

    Ryan: We had those same Sahara sands in the Canary Islands for 1-2 weeks a year, a time called Calima by locals. Every night our balcony would fill with sand. The sun was blocked out by the sand in the air every day. It was pretty cool!

  131. If anyone has listened to the true-crime murder podcast “Serial”, Leakin Park was in my area. Locals referred to it as “The Body Factory”. I was young and dumb and tried to walk the park cross-country one day, and finally ended up on North Avenue in Baltimore during a Louis Farrakhan rally. We were finally taken home in the back of a police cruiser.

    In another area, we got a referral from the stake patriarch and taught the greatest couple ever. Two weeks before the baptism, the Mission President called me up, said “Elder (blank) is from my home ward in Utah, and he doesn’t have many great experiences to talk about in his homecoming talk.” I got a midnight transfer into an area where the previous missionaries had impregnated the daughter of a high counselor. The members hated us, and I couldn’t blame them.

  132. I got a midnight transfer into an area where the previous missionaries had impregnated the daughter of a high counselor.

    OK, I’ll ask what everyone’s wondering. Both of them?

    Seriously, that’s a raw deal – but it made a great story for your homecoming talk!

  133. My husband admits that having people constantly to teach was probably the redeeming quality of his mission. Luckily he has a horrible long-term memory, so he doesn’t get nightmares anymore. In his mission white guys were required to have black companions for safety reasons (two white guys walking down the street would have a high likelihood of getting stabbed). That meant my husband usually had native African companions (once he had a companion from Europe). At the time the closest temples were in Europe or South Africa, so most of his companions had never seen a temple (let alone been through one) and often had been members for only a year or so prior to going on their mission. He said when he first got there he was still struggling with the language and was surprised when he heard his senior companion teaching that the gold plates were in the Salt Lake temple. Natives from one particular country (*not* the country where he was serving) had a nasty reputation for being unstable and extremely violent. In his experience the stereotype was accurate, and those were the companionships where he slept with a weapon nearby. One home had a cooking pan with a massive dent which the elders kept as a reminder to watch out for unstable companions. Shaving daily with cold water, companions commonly having girlfriends (and children) among local members, and more than a few corrupt church leaders are some of the difficult things he’s mentioned over the years (I don’t grasp the shaving issue, but maybe other guys get it). Elders were never sent home from the mission as a rule, no matter what they did. After he left we heard that things got better in spite of several deaths among the missionary force. The new temples in nearby countries have probably helped, and there are multiple stakes in the country now where before there wasn’t even one. Last we heard, though, the political climate had gotten too unstable so all non-native elders had been pulled (non-native sisters have never been allowed to serve there that I’m aware of). Another benefit from his mission that we laugh about – his OCD becoming a bit less severe. Apparently that’s hard to keep up in a third-world country when you are forced to deal with more pressing concerns.

  134. One did the deed, and one was downstairs watching TV and was considered by the mission president to be “in on it”. Both were sent home, one excommunicated and one disfellowshipped.

    In hindsight, he probably should have sent sisters into the area after that.

    I don’t claim to have had the worst mission ever, but there were certainly some really, really bad days, and that can probably be said for anybody. I know people who had nearly no good days.

    And as far as psycho companions, I had a temporary threesome where I punched an elder in the face rather hard. We’d come from a first discussion with a guy who had a car and a job and reading skills. He’d stolen a Book of Mormon from a hotel, had read it, and wanted to learn more. This chucklehead missionary started bringing up polygamy, the United Order, and “O My Father” doctrine right out of the gate. Poor investigator finally buried his head in his hands and said, “I’m sorry, guys, but this just doesn’t feel like what I thought it would be.” Walking down the street, the elder said “Well, I guess the Lord didn’t want him to get baptized.” Fist, face, flat. I didn’t regret it, and none of us ever mentioned it.

    Don’t know if that makes me the psycho or him, but I later convinced him to sell bone marrow. Might have been a bit harsh, but I think it made the point.

  135. Served in Siberia. Got slapped. Had rocks thrown at me. Robbed several times (gimme-your-lunch-money type of thing). Mugged once (comp got the stick, I got off pretty easy). Even got arrested (that was cool). My testimony was called into question by many, but the only person who told me that I HAD no testimony was my mission president whose favorite thing to say to me (apart from the consistent and varying mispronunciations of my last name) was “shame on you.” Maybe I deserved it sometimes.
    Throughout those two years I felt like the luckiest guy on the planet, though. Every crazy trial was a feather in my cap. I collected them, anxious to tell people about my awesome adventures. I didn’t always have investigators, but I always had something to do and there were certainly enough nice people around. I wouldn’t call my mission hard at all. So why am I commenting?
    The memory of my mission is one of the hardest things for me to deal with now. I was a naïve and judgmental youngster with no understanding whatsoever of what those people had been through in the past century. People were torn from their loved ones in the dead of night, falsely accused, tortured, starved, enslaved as enemies of the regime for decades with no explanation and none to come even after their release. Families were permanently lost. And here I come along, a fat American kid with all the answers, treating the country like a theme park, wondering which roller coaster of an experience I will have next. I feel regret that I wasted all that time knocking on (no joke) tens of thousands of doors and reciting canned lessons to maybe a handful of them while ignoring the real needs of ALL of them.
    My mission was not hard. It was pathetic and shameful.

  136. I like watching TV

  137. “In hindsight, he probably should have sent sisters into the area after that.”

    Agreed. If one of them had managed to get pregnant by a member while the other watched TV then everything would have returned to normal in that area. Even Steven.

    Justin, I have often felt the same as you. Turn your feelings of regret into appreciation for wisdom gained. You recognize the folly of your youth. Few greater lessons can be learned in this life. Do something with that knowledge. I got a second chance to redeem myself when I was called as YM President a few years back. You will likewise find new opportunities to influence the lives of others. Make the best of them this time around and your feelings of regret for “the best two years of your life” will fade away.

  138. Bulgaria. Meets all the criteria. Don’t ask about your missionary’s investigators, he has none. Don’t ask about the people, they are mean and think you’re a religious idiot. Don’t ask how tracting was, it was discouraging and terrible. Ask him about his scripture reading and the insights he gleaned that day because that was the highlight of his day.

  139. @ J. on January 13, 2015 at 12:48 am. I’m sorry that happened. It sounds incredibly difficult.