Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Last Man Standing: Lessons Learned about Never Leaving Your Companion

My mission president M. Russell Ballard often said that the Church must be true or the missionaries would have destroyed years ago. Yesterday I entered in to a discussion with a man who spoke to me of the cultural practices in Italy. I have not often reflected on the five months I spent on my mission in Italy. I am sure that my perception of what happened may be flawed but it is my best recollection. I was called to the Italy Rome Mission in September 1975 and subsequently transferred to Canada Toronto Mission at the end of March 1976. I usually repress any reflection on my time there because it was a very traumatic experience and one that scarred me for life. I have for the most part repressed it.

Last night I fell asleep and woke up resolved to tell this story even though I know it will not reflect well on me. I even came up with the title and most of what I am sharing. It keeps repeateding itself in my mind. In fact I know I am culpable in everything that happened. I admit I failed my companion and I failed myself. I knew what was about to befall him and I couldn't do anything to stop it. I am not sure anyone I mention would think they did anything wrong. They probably don't know I feel this way or would dismiss me as being unstable. I am sure they have all gone through their lives feeling they were exceptional Latter-day Saints. In fact I read about one of them who volunteers at the MTC not to long ago. I guess I don't want to judge them since honestly we were young and immature thirty years ago and people do change. I am sure they have all done tremendous things since their missions. I just have to tell this story because if some missionary reads it maybe it will help them save a companion. It won't exulpate what I did or didn't do but maybe it will save them from the psychic pain I experienced in the loss of a companion and friend.

I feel there are a lot of lessons that can be learned by my sharing my experiences in Ragusa, Sicily that can help future and former missionaries rethink some of the things they do and say while serving a mission. I can honestly say that I prefer to associate with people who are sweetening Polyana kind of Mormons. There are a few Saints that genuinely see the good in others even if they are few and far between. I on the other hand am a flawed and imperfect person. My mission president once prophesied to me that my mission would be a type of the rest of my life to come. I either have been practicing a form of self-fulfillment or he was correct since every problem I encountered then whether involving relationship problems or obedience issues have replayed themselves in my life. I like to think that I am a functioning member of LDS society because I have overcome them but as to being psychologically sound that is debatable depending on your perspective. Sometimes people don't like what I have to say which makes for an interesting time. My intention in blogging is one as a form of self-therapy and two as a historical record. I have a tendency to self-disclose about the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly. Today's post will reflect that. I am going to give a caveat that you should not read any further since what I am about the share might disturb more faith-promoting types. You are reading it at your own peril. Nothing I say is actionable in a court of law and the events are factual. The only thing subjective is the interpretation of what happened not that it happened.

I was born and raised a practicing Roman Catholic as a child so I knew a great deal about the Italian culture. I went to a Church where a Monseigneur was our spiritual guide. He was born in Italy and had worked in the Vatican and had a holy ring we were expected to kiss in respect of his high status. Our church was very ornate and filled with 14 ct. gold leaf with a spectacular altar that must have cost those poor immigrants tens of thousands of dollars. A local car dealer gave him a black Lincoln Continental to drive. Just like Mormons go to nursery and primary from the age of three I went to Catechism which I did every Saturday until I was nine years old. Our priest was a die-hard Notre Dame fan and we watched movies every week of our team. It was the best part of the morning which lasted from eight until around eleven a.m.

By the time I was five I made my first communion and by the age of eight I was confirmed. LaSalle, Illinois was a predominately Italian, Polish, and Irish community with a few Poles mixed in. Every few blocks was a Catholic Church and we even had five or six Protestant churches but Catholicism dominated with at least ten churches. We all went to church every Sunday. We had a couple of Catholic schools including St. Patrick's which was on the corner across the street from our Church. My father was a truck driver so we couldn't afford to go there but a lot of the kids I went to church with did. By the time I was ten I was an altar boy and helped out at a funeral, baptism etc. I would ring the bell during mass once when he genuflected and three times when the priest raised the chalice in which I would pour the sacramental wine. I had to get up at 4a.m. to be there by the 5 a.m. mass which was said in Latin.

I learned from an early age the hypocrisy of my religion. My grandmother was a real busy body and knew the business of everyone in town. She lived across the street from the kindergarten teacher who was single and lived with her elderly mother. My grandmother would out the priest to my parents and I was privy to hearing what she said since she didn't think it would register in our young minds. By the time I was in fifth grade I used to see his car parked in front of the woman's house early in the morning before eight o'clock on days he wasn't saying the mass. Shortly before eight he would be gone.

This experience helped prepare me later when I discovered my own father was a womanizer and practiced unsavory things from drinking to gambling to adultery. My mother who had been a Protestant had converted to Catholicism before she married my father. Her family were Bible fearing people who watched Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and Kathryn Kuhlman every Sunday night. My grandmother would either read the Bible or listen to it on 78 records. The closets were filled with Bibles. She had nine living children out of eleven and every Sunday night we went and visited. My father never felt comfortable and would drop us off then return four hours later. This was usually due to the fact that he had been drunk and had beaten my mother up in a fight when she would tell him to quit. Luckily or unluckily depending on your perspective he nearly died in his thirties. He had to be hospitalized because he would drink himself in to a stupor and had to be detoxed at the V.A. hospital. He later had lung cancer and had part of his lung cut out by 38. Needless to say he had some challenging problems. I learned from his negative behavior.

At 12 we moved to Las Vegas so my father could work legally at gambling. During the day he was a boxman on a crap table and during the night he played poker at the Union Plaza. We didn't go to Church much from that time until I joined the Church. I guess my father didn't feel comfortable since he was hanging out with some bad people including former Mafia types. When I was seventeen I had an unfortunate love affair with a girl. I turned to the Church for spiritual guidance since I was so depressed. The priest said even though my sister was active that he didn't know me and my father well enough so he wasn't interested in helping me. It turned me off to the Catholic Church that I wasn't worth their time even to talk with.

I had a friend in high school that I was close with that was a quasi-Mormon. He smoked a pack a day and chased girls with me with a couple of other guys one who was supposedly a good Mormon. He gave me a Book of Mormon that I tossed in a drawer. My friend and his family moved to Des Plaines right after we graduated. I was supposed to go to Fort Knox for howitzer training prior to attending Roswell Military Academy but I went with my friend back to Illinois for a couple of weeks. I came back to Vegas and went to a football game with the supposedly good Mormon and met the girl who I kissed in front of 12,000 fans. My brashness appealed to her but unfortunately she was messing around with three other guys. My brother-in-law knew her boyfriend who I had played with on the high school soccer team. The guy would give him a play by play description when he would pick her up after I dropped her off at night around eight or nine p.m. She was a screwed up mess. Her mother had gotten pregnant with her at fifteen and had four children before 30 with three different men. She was also a radical feminist who was president of the N.O.W. in Las Vegas and marched for woman's right to abortion. Her rationale was that she didn't want her daughter or other woman to go through what she had. Needless to say she was not successful as both her daughters had trouble. Her youngest daughter was married by fifteen and my girlfriend was married three times by 25. When I last saw her in 1977 she was married to a 45 year old pharmacist and had a German shepherd dog since she was unable to have children which she desperately wanted and he was her substitute.

I joined the Church after reading the Book of Mormon and gaining a testimony. I knew much about Catholics since as an Italian American my two sisters were married to Catholics. My oldest sister was a charsmatic Catholic and became so fanatical that she was a Carmelite that tithed ten percent of her personal income. I had a poor baptismal interview which didn't go in to any details of my brief life which included messing around with my girlfriend. Since I felt I had repented and was washed clean I went on a mission one year after I joined the Church. I had limited exposure to the Church and any thing I learned was what I heard in a nine month period every Sunday. I never went to seminary, primary, or mutual. I attended a few young adult activities and read the scriptures from cover to cover four times. There were a lot of things not contained in the scriptures or discussed that I needed to know.

I finally went to the LTM in September 1975. I had no clue whatsoever about what was expected or even what missionaries did other than teaching the discussions. I had a limited exposure to the missionaries having taken all seven discussions in two days. They never talked with me again after I was baptized. In fact they had trouble with my brash personality and one argued with another whether to even baptize me. I had requested baptism on my own a few weeks after they were done teaching me. I wasn't invited to any mormons house for dinner. Mothers didn't exactly welcome me with open arms. I made a few friends of guys from high school in the young adult group. I went to the local community college and took a few business classes.

I gave a farewell talk in church. I didn't have much money so my elder's quorum was supposed to help me when my money ran out which it did a couple months in to my mission. I went to Utah with one of the guys whose family took me through the Salt Lake Temple. My friend's parents were divorced but his mother had remarried and lived in Santaquin. I was even ordained to be an elder in a funny way. I was sustained in Las Vegas but set apart by Don S. Robertson in Spanish Fork since I was in Utah taking out my endowments. I went in the mission home on the same day as my friend so he gave me a ride up to Salt Lake City in his Dodge Charger. He drove over 100 miles per hour. I am surprised we didn't die since we missed a flatbed by inches.

I learned everything I know from listening to a few speakers the nine weeks I was in the LTM about missionary work. My companion in the LTM was a starting college quarterback who also had an Italian American name. He was slick and very polished. His sister went to the Y. He was very appealing to young women. I knew this because he was around 6 feet tall with blond hair and brown eyes. He looked like a body builder. He was a humble guy who prayed hard and studied hard. After a month I began to get worried as he began to express doubts about his mission. We lived in Allen Hall and our bedroom windows looked right in to the Elms Apartment. We couldn't escape the young women next door who almost never closed their curtains. One day he came in and told me he was going home that he had transgressed with his girl friend back home and needed to clear it up before he could go. I don't know if he ever went again on his mission. It was a great blow to me since I really loved the guy and thought he would make a great leader some day.

I wasn't given any new companion so I spent the next few weeks alone in my room studying and struggling with Italian. It was a bear to learn but I almost mastered the baptismal challenge and I could say a few basic phrases. I remember everyone of us had inadequacies with the language and the lessons. We all supported one another the best we could. I could tell that it was a competive thing as elders jockeyed from the very beginning to be district leader in the LTM. The guys in my group were aggressive and cocky. They talked a bunch of crap to each other believing they were destined for greatness. I was just as cocky I had prayed to the Lord that I would be like Wilford Woodruff or John Taylor and would baptize thousands. I even had an experience of seeing the second coming during the time I was in the LTM.

Soon we boarded a plane for Italy which lasted for hours. One elder hit on the stewardess as he tried teaching her the gospel. He was also a Catholic convert who reminded me of guys I knew growing up in Illinois. Even though he was an odd duck I raised my appraisal of him.

When we got to Rome we were taken to meet our mission president Leopoldo Larcher. He wasn't much older than us being around 30. He had a young wife and three little children. I was told he had joined the church about three years before. He immediately bonded with me since he knew I was of Italian descent also. He went on about how we would do a great work together among our people. He had a lot of passion but I could tell he wasn't overly experienced but I didn't mind since we had that in common also. I was impressed by his charismatic good looks and attitude. He told me that he intended for me to be trained by the best missionary in the field and that I would return to Rome as his mission assistant. He also told me I could serve in the Palermo area near Altofonte Parco where my grandfather came from so I could do some family history. I was really flabbergasted because he really was sincere about his promises. He told me I was to serve with Giorgio D. P. He told me Elder D. P. was from his home area and that he was an extraordinary elder who had baptized many people and was the top elder in the mission and that I was to be trained by the best elder in the mission. He was sending me in to Ragusa which had been opened only a few weeks previous. Elder D. P. would teach me everything I needed to know but he didn't speak a word of English but I would master Italian and have a successful mission.

I took a train that traveled the length of Italy from Rome to Brindisi and then was placed on a ferry and finally arrived in Catania. A couple elders got off in other places on route but Ragusa was the farthest south in the mission. I was met by Elders R. H. and Elder F. the zone leaders at Catania. I was driven down to Ragusa by car where I met my district which had six elders. The six elders lived at Via Giovanni Meli 1/11 which was an apartment building on the point of a bridge. We literally had a breathtaking view of a valley and then the red/blue light district of the town across the bridge.

My district was comprised of Elder F. and his companion Elder B., Elder Q. and his companion Elder S., and Elder D.P. and me. Elder F. told me how Elder D.P. had opened another city Siracusa. There he had stood on a stool and with a loud speaker called the people to repentance. He had baptized about twenty people and there was a strong branch there now. D.P. had been the branch president there and sent to new cities to build them up. He was now in Ragusa to get the city started.

When I first got there we rented a storefront where we held church and then eventually we held services at our apartment. We had a temporary font that we filled with kettles of water and I witnessed four baptism during the five months I was there.

Elder F. was a nice likeable guy as was his companion Elder B. Elder Q was a strange fellow who had a quirky sense of humor and was a highly competive guy. He and his companion had a hard time competing with Elder D.P. who was the top missionary in the entire mission. F. was more level-headed and was training a greenie but he was due shortly to go home. D.P. was everything I was told and then some. He taught more discussions than any other missionary, placed more Book of Mormons and baptized on a regular basis. He was number one in every statistic and was awesome in all respects including looks and personality. He was a missionaries missionary. The mission president put out a weekly newsletter that showed the top twenty companionships. I was shown a few previous issues with D.P. clearly number one by a large margin for as long as he was a missionary. The missionaries both respected and were jealous of D.P. They openly competed with him with Elders doing everything possible to be number one. D.P. wasn't even consciously aware of the effect he had on others he was just a natural and successful at whatever he put his hand.

D.P. was oblivious to their feelings. He was this likeable good looking sophisticated Italian convert. His father owned a large and famous shoe company for women. His sister and family sent him thousands of lire every few weeks. He was even more charismatic than Leopoldo Larcher. There wasn't anyone that didn't love him in Ragusa or in the mission. He knew enough to never rock the boat and still outperform others. His nonawareness actually might have been his downfall since it appeared he was just a blessed person.

Young adults and adults would invite him to their homes for his social conversation and presence. When we street tracted large crowds would gather. Priests would buy twenty Book of Mormons in a casual conversation on the street. We would go in to municipal buildings and meet with dignitaries who put dozens of Book of Mormons in the local libraries and schools. We had appointments from morning until evening. People beg us to eat with them and be their guests. Even during the afternoon naps we were invited in even when we tried not to impose. Vendors gave him great deals and would want him to meet their daughters which he usually brushed off. I heard them offer their daughters to him in marriage which he declined tactfully and gracefully.

Soon I was caught up in the success of Elder D.P. Every week it was D.P./B. topping the mission. I passed off my baptismal challenge easily. I learned the language rapidly since he really couldn't speak a word of English. We baptized three people in a matter of three months which was unheard of in Italy. I even passed off one of the discussions.

Elder F. was at the end of his mission and was soon on his way home. He was replaced by Elder N. who had been in Sardegna. Elder F. was kind of a kick back guy that got along with most of us. Noble was an intense guy that liked to come off as a hard guy. He didn't brook any conversation it was his way or the highway. He let you know he was in charge.

I began to sense not all was right with our district and that there was some rivalry going between N, Q, S, and Elder D.P. F. let D.P. do his own thing but N. tried to oversee him. Q. couldn't outdo D.P. so he concentrated on taking me down by ridiculing me. One day he was bragging and laughing how he and S. would come home by way of the blue light district. I told them that I had heard S. Dilworth Young's talk and that they should go around. He told us how the women would offer them their services and it was funny. D.P. never walked through that area because we were told by our mission president to avoid such places. We would pray every morning as a district before we would go out. Q. and S. began to hit me on the back of the head during the prayer. Q. would laugh and say do you feel the spirit Elder. One time they with F. held me down and try to force pudding in my mouth saying there was alcohol in it. I knew there was no pudding but I would be darned if I would let them man handle me. It took all five of them to fight me to the floor. I never let them shove the spoon in my mouth. It ticked them off that I couldn't be broken.

Later when N. came in he was tight with D.Q. who portrayed me as not being one of the guys. One day N. called me in to his room. He told me that I was a wicked and slothful servant and that I had to be commanded in all things. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about since I was working sixty hours a week and was in the top companionship in the mission. I even walked so much I wore a hole three inches deep in the back of my right foot which bleed and scabbed over. I told him I didn't have a clue what he meant but I began to pass off my discussions quicker and got another one done since passing my Star Chart was the only thing between me and a senior companionship.

A few weeks later N. became really angry with me when an investigator who was physically deformed asked for us to heal him. D.P. didn't know what to do since the young man was well-known in the city and had lots of university friends. He took the discussions and came to Church. I didn't think his desire to be healed was unreasonable. The Spirit told me that I could heal him if he would fast and pray. I told him if he had the faith to believe that I would lay my hands on his head and he would be healed. D.P. talked to N. about it. We arranged a time for the blessing. N. called me in and told me he wouldn't let me jeopardize the work in Ragusa if I failed and no way would he let me give the guy a blessing. I knew the young man would reject the gospel and told him we would lose him and his friends as investigators but N. told me that was too bad and he was in charge. I shut up since I was an obedient type. D.P. told me he believed I could heal the guy but N. was the district leader and we had to do what he said since we were just getting started.

I began to worry about Elder D.P. who started receiving letters from a young woman from Siracusa. He was very enamored of her and started writing her regularly. He suggested he might marry her after his mission. I told him to lock his heart having read Spencer W. Kimball's talk when I was in the MTC. I figured since she was in another city several kilometers away he would be safe.

D.P. was a very generous and loving kind of guy. I could see that women were very attracted to him as they would via for him to notice him. He didn't succumb to it but usually would find a way to teach them. I never saw him act improper in the presence of a woman.

He got some money around Christmas time and offered to buy me anything I wanted. I was joking one day and told him since he was a millionaire that one day when he ran the factory I would like him to buy me a Lamborghini. I told him I would settle for a children's book with pictures of Italian objects. He threw in a couple of Scrooge McDuck books to help me learn Italian. He promised to buy me the car when he ran the factory. I didn't have a coat and my quorum stopped sending me my $160 so D.P. carried me between checks and literally gave me the coat off his back.

The friction in our district started getting worse as I could tell no matter how hard the other elders tried to top D.P. as the top elder no one could. As long as D.P. was left alone he would always be the top elder unless something happened to him. Then a very bad thing did happened. The young woman that was writing D.P. decided to come and visit him. When I heard this from D.P. I told the district leader about it who told me not to worry. They would protect D.P. if she did show up. One Sunday she showed up with three other young adults--a girl and two guys.

When they knocked on the door the district leader said to the elder answering to let them in. I would have never let them in for any reason knowing she was there for Elder D.P. I wouldn't let D.P. go anywhere without me even though he was hot to be with her. I walked around the apartment next to D.P. which drove him crazy. Eventually I had to go to the bathroom and asked the other elders to not let him be alone with her or leave the apartment without me. I knew he would be in trouble if he got alone with her.

Ten minutes later when I came out I couldn't find D.P. anywhere. I asked where he was and they lied to me telling me that he was with one of the other elders and would be back soon. He was just going down to her car to get something. The spirit told me they were lying since he didn't show up after five minutes. I walked around the apartment and saw all the elders and the girls' friends who were having a good time talking. D.P. was nowhere to be found. He disappeared until late that evening with the girl. I knew that he was out making out with her. He came back and apologized to me and told me how much he was in love with the girl and he couldn't help himself. He even told me he knew he would be in trouble with the President and would probably be transferred.

N. turned him in as he should and he received an emergency transfer. D.P. was sent out as a branch president and later got in trouble messing with the same girl who followed him around. The truth was they should have sent him to Canada instead of me or as far away from her as they could.

I became companions with Elder S. who was promoted to a senior companion. The interesting thing was that S. and I became the top elders in the mission after D.P. left so he got his wish for a week or two. S. got some bad karma as he began suffering stomach problems. It turned out he had a duodenoum ulcer from the stress of trying to be the top elder. The doctors told him that he might have to go home unless he took an injection in the side of his buttocks every day for a month and slow down a little. He was a wimp and didn't want to inject himself and he didn't trust me to do it. He had Sister Loretta who was married and a new convert in her 40s stick him in his behind every day. You talk about humbling. I came to appreciate S. later at the Y when he was working on his business degree I would even talk to him from time to time. When he was removed from the mission he was a half-way decent guy. I suspect he is a millionarie today.

I have to say that my mission was ruined after D.P. was transferred. S. couldn't protect me from Q nor N who whether out of guilt or just dislike were downright hostile to me. N rubbed in my letter to Larcher which I knew he would. He felt it validated his treatment. I really was angry with them for letting D.P. run off with the girl and for riding my tail when I was being a straight arrow missionary. I knew that letting D.P. out with her was a way of taking him down for good. I am just not sure they did it consciously or unconsciously. I do know they were stupid when they let him leave with the girl. What did they think was going to happen. They knew he wasn't suppose to leave his companion even for one second. I wrote Larcher and told him about the D.P. situation which did not make N too happy since I cast him in a bad light.

A few weeks later as I got farther in my mission and could understand the language even better, I discovered from teaching the law of chastity that I had not fully resolved everything before I joined the church. I knew that if I confessed I would minimum get transferred away from Q and N. At that point I downright would do anything to leave them and knew it would affect me for the rest of my life what happened to D.P. Sure enough the mission president made me write my bishop and stake president, my parents and former non-mormon girlfriend. The latter two thought I was whacked out of my brain and laughed about it. Soon I went to Catania where I remained for a few weeks then I went up to Rome and put on a plane for Toronto where I served the remaining fifteen months. As I left the airport Larcher lamented how sad it was that I was being transferred since I was going to be one of his assistants if I had stayed I would have been a credit to all Italians. I said to myself if you wanted me so bad you would not have had me transferred. You could have told the Missionary Committee what Ballard later told me which was you repented before you joined the church and it was washed clean at baptism.

When I got to Canada and told my story to Ballard, he told me that he thought everyone had overreacted and mishandled my situation that this was all water under the bridge and to move on. He said he would have never had me transferred and that he thought my mission president's inexperience contributed to my being with him but now that I was there to make the best of the experience. At least now my elder's quorum would have to pay the money every month to keep me on a mission since he and my stake president had been companions on their missions in England.

As I look back on the matter I don't blame Larcher since all the players in the story kept him uninformed for their own reasons. It would have been nice if we had really sat down and had a conversation about this but it just never worked out that we did. I was never treated in Canada as a productive elder but was always told by the other missionaries I was a problem elder as they would speculate why I was transferred. I was told by them all kinds of wild stories from immoralilty to fighting with companions etc. I kept my mouth shut at the time because President Ballard told me to. I was always under a cloud that I might be sent home unworthily because of my inauspicious transfer.

I had an interesting genealogy experience. When I was in Catania I ran across a guy named Gesualdo Toscano who I paid $400 to do my genealogy. He was supposed to take both my Bruno line and Gaita line back four generations. He later had some psychological problems and I was told he had professional help. He kept insisting I didn't pay him. Lucky for me I had a receipt from the Royal Bank of Canada showing he had cashed my money order. He did a good job on the Bruno line but he didn't follow up on the Gaita line. Till this day I have not been able to crack open that line. Larcher bugged me on my mission to pay Toscano again but I refused since I didn't have any money. I had to have Elder Ballard get him off my back. I also returned the cool yellow jacket to D.P. who had loaned it to me in Ragusa. I think he got it back after his mission. I never heard from D.P. ever again nor have I seen my Lamborghini. I would trade the car if I knew he came back to the Church. I have tried for years to find someone that knows what happened to him but no one does.

Even though D.P. is not blameless in that he messed around and was eventually excommunicated he might have been better protected by his companions. I got what I deserved if I had been less arrogant things might have been different. I got caught up in doing the work at the cost of getting along with my colleagues. I did what I thought was right at the time but I might have been a little less narrow-minded. I learned a few things in human relations that sometimes being right doesn't endear you to everyone. I can definitely say D.P. could have been protected from himself if our district had been more vigilant. They knew when they let him out the door without someone to accompany him what would probably happen. Maybe he would have gone down in a different way but I would have preferred it be on someone else's watch not when I was assigned as his companion. I sure didn't expect to be lied to by missionaries who should have known better.

I will always remember S. Dilworth Young telling us to watch out for our friends so we could smell our roses in December and how he let an LDS buddy go in to a prostitute when he could have spoken out. I have always lived my life as my brother's keeper so I wouldn't have that kind of guilt but still despite my best efforts I failed. I feel it better to be offensive and err on the side of being judgmental than to have your fellow missionary's blood on your skirt. There is nothing sadder than seeing a fellow missionary go home in disgrace when you could have changed the outcome. Elder Ballard drummed that in to my head and its definitely one of my core values that there is accountability. I would rather take the beating in this life than face the Savior at the judgment seat. I have even turned myself in if I feel I have done something against the Church. I have gotten better as the years go by of giving the person a chance to do the right thing before speaking up. I have insisted in my own life a time or two that even I should be disciplined for minor infractions and my wife and children.

I learned some negative things and positive things that have helped me cope as a member of the Church from my mission. Even though I see the glass as half empty I realize that what happened in Ragusa made me a better person and was a learning experience. I would never have met Elder Ballard who shaped my life and put me in touch with general authorities whom I would later serve. I probably wouldn't be blogging today. I know that even when abused by those you should trust on your mission if you remain faithful you can still accomplish much in the kingdom. I know that people many times tread on each other not realizing that what they do can have lifelong consecquences. Sometimes they don't do it even consciously that is why it is so hard to know their motivations. We can still not be victims if we choose to move on and shaped our own destiny as Victor Frankl taught by his example in the Nazi concentration camp. A mission for the most part is a pretty safe environment in which to learn about relationship and still do some good.

I believe until this day we could have saved D.P. I also know if my district had been kinder and more gentle and obeyed the rules exactly I would have served all two years in Italy. I wouldn't have become so discouraged that I would have put myself in the position of being transferred by writing that letter to Larcher. I instinctively knew what I was doing would get me a transfer.

One redeeming thing for me was when they called my second daughter to my old mission. I am hopeful she might have found a few people I might have touched had I been allowed to stay. She had a very succesful mission and mastered the language. I will never know until the next life whether I taught everyone I was meant to in either place. People are not predictable and we should never assume they will always do the right thing for the right reasons. I am glad there is repentance so maybe in ten years when I go on a couple of more missions I will be a better missionary than last time. I know I will stay with my companion no matter what. It is better to be obedient than live a life where you are always asking forgiveness. I cringe today when I hear a missionary say you can't always get permission but you can always get forgiveness. I am not sure if they read my story they will realize it might take a lifetime to get over the consequences of a lapse in the rules.

I think every elder in the Ragusa District suffered the day that D.P. fell. As I reflect back I wonder if any of us were truly left standing. Let alone whether being number one was worth the price we paid thirty long years ago.


Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds just like you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous II

Issues, lots of issues.

Raymond Teodo a.k.a. was_bedeutet_jemanden said...

This is a really powerful article. I imagine it would have taken you a lot of courage to be able to bear your soul hear. A couple of times I nearly cried, because it was so sad what you had to go through on account of these other missionaries using their agency to turn against you and each other. As a result, poor D.P. suffered, the very Elder who appeared to be oblivious of the other Elders' jealousy of him.....

It's funny how even today, even though the bar has been raised, this politcal struggle among missionaries to be number 1 still exists. It used to sicken me every time someone in our mission talked negatively about the newly appointed A.P.s, because they secretly themselved coveted that postion. I personally never sought for any leadership position in my mission, however, I did have the privilege of serving as a District Leader twice, and I got to train one missionary who has since become one of my best friends. But this whole stupid childish nonense about competing against each other, instead of working together ot build the Kingdom, still exists to this day, and it's really sad to see.....

Dr. B said...


Amen to your comments. I think many people equate righteousness with callings. The Lord puts his finger on you if you are somehow chosen over your colleagues. I remember M. Russell Ballard telling us he could call any of the sixty missionaries at a zone conference to be his assistant and we would all do a good job. It would be done slightly different but that when a man was chosen as his assistant or even as a bishop they called the right man not the best man to the position. He explained that the right man was one they could get along with rather than the one to do the job most efficiently. How true in this organization that people are many times called because of social skills. As a consequence elders should learn how to get along if that is how they are judged. It sure becomes apparent when an elder or sister steps on someone on the way up. So we really care about stuff like positions then we should cultivate skills that are more human relations in nature like President Monson who goes around visiting the widows and elderly.