Saturday, May 03, 2008

To Everything There Is a Season

Many people throughout the world are familiar with LDS Church missionaries. To begin their service, Mormon missionaries receive brief training at one of the church’s Missionary Training Centers around the globe. Those that already know the language of their assigned areas spend less than three weeks at the MTC. Those that are learning languages usually receive about eight weeks of MTC training.

I have strong memories of my two months at the Provo MTC. Those that have spent time there know that the campus has a series of identical four-floor dormitory buildings. Each floor is identical. (Sometimes this produces confusion.) Effectively managing the schedules of several hundred missionaries is not an easy task. Groups are given fairly rigid schedules to make it all work.

During my tenure at the MTC, I lived on the third floor of our dormitory in a room with three other missionaries that were also slated to serve in Norway. My best friend resided on the second floor of the same building. Due to our differing schedules, we almost never saw each other.

The entire third floor of our building was slated to attend gym class first thing in the morning. Upon returning from gym class, we had just enough time to get washed, groomed, and dressed before we were scheduled to be at the cafeteria for breakfast. This proved to be problematic, because there was a limited number of shower heads, meaning that we often waited in line to get showered.

One day as I was walking back into the dorm room with my hair wet and with my towel wrapped around my waist, I saw one of the other missionaries just putting on his suit coat. I asked how it was possible that he had been able to get ready so quickly. He swore the rest of us in the room to secrecy, and then revealed that he had discovered that the entire fourth floor was gone to breakfast at the time we were scheduled to shower. Their shower rooms were completely vacant during that time. The next morning, our group showered in luxuriant privacy on the fourth floor. This continued for weeks.

One of our group was a good singer. He would often begin singing a hymn, and the rest of us would join in and try to sing four-part harmony while we were showering. After being in the MTC for about seven weeks, we were getting a little antsy. We had been very good about the structured environment. I had worked very hard studying. And, of course, we were still 19-year-old boys. All of these factors combined to foment what happened next.

The MTC is, understandably, a somewhat cloistered environment. Missionaries are encouraged to lay aside the things of this world and focus on matters of a spiritual plane. The media with which we had inundated ourselves throughout our young lives was shut off. If there was music, it was ostensibly hymns. We were continually encouraged to maintain the high spiritual standards of the desired MTC environment.

One morning after we finished a hymn in the shower, one of our number said, “I’m tired of singing just hymns. I think it would be healthy to break out of that routine at least once in a while.” Another one asked rather incredulously, “Well, what do you suggest we sing?” The first one got a mischievous look in his eye, and then burst out singing, “Flintstones Meet the Flintstones. They’re a modern stone age family!”

For a moment, we were all shocked. Then the rest of us spontaneously joined in at the top of our lungs, “From the town of Bedrock, They’re a page right out of history.” When we finished the song, it felt so good blowing off a little steam, that we sang it again, but with better quality and volume.

We were on our third rousing chorus of having a yabba dabba doo time, when a cross missionary walked in and excoriated us for our frivolity. He revealed that he had stayed back in the dormitory fasting that morning, expecting solitude and silence to ponder a serious spiritual matter. He chastised us for destroying his solitude.

After the missionary stomped out of the shower room, I felt ashamed. I looked around to see how the others were taking it. Suddenly one of our group intoned, “Flintstones …,” and the rest of us joined in even louder than before, “Meet the Flintstones. They’re a modern stone age family!” We had a good laugh.

I wonder if it ever dawned on this young devoted missionary that his severe manner of calling us to repentance for blowing off a little steam was quite a bit more unchristian than our singing.

3 comments:

Bradley Ross said...

He was 19, too.

Reach Upward said...

A very good point.

Don't worry. I don't hold it against him. But I like to remember the event so that I can temper myself whenever I get feeling self righteous.

Frank Staheli said...

We used to turn the showers at the MTC into a steam room after a hard day's work learning discussions and languages.

We didn't sing flintstones, but we sang a lot of other stuff at the top of our lungs!!

Man was that cathartic!