Before Book of Mormon The musical There Was Me!
Preparing For A Mission
“I hope they call me on a mission,
When I have grown a foot or two
I hope by then I will be ready,
To teach and preach and work as missionaries do.”
These lines come from a song I was taught when I was a toddler. On being born into the Mormon faith every boy is taught that when they reach the age of 19, every worthy young man must serve a two-year, full-time mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons.
Let me put this into a little more context. Each Sunday, Mormon boys are taught by ex-mormon missionaries and so grow up hearing stories of adventure and life-changing moments gained on their missions. It is like listening to Indiana Jones retell how he found the lost ark.
As a young boy in Vancouver, British Columbia, I remember daydreaming about spending my two years in some sunny magical place in South American like Peru or Bolivia, speaking Spanish and helping the local people find happiness and come together in a united faith.
Reality hit when I turned 19.
Before going on a mission you must first have an interview with the Bishop of the church in order to make sure you’re worthy. This means that you have to be a virgin and follow the basic commandment and because Mormons are a little extra, you also must not have ever smoked, drunk alcohol, tea or coffee and definitely not have taken drugs!
As a naive, innocent and somewhat sheltered as a young mormon – oh yes, and closted homosexual – I was definitely worthy enough to go on a mission.
The bishop then sends your name to Salt Lake City, and there in a room, a group of men pray to God asking him where you shall be sent. God then answers and reveals your divine destiny and in a few weeks the answer arrives at your house in the post.
I was born in October – the other young men who turned 19 earlier that year received their mission call before me. Chris Shortinghouse, my arch nemesis, was a young mormon kid I grew up with and for some reason there was always competition between us. He did everything perfectly and I just couldn’t match up. We were the same age so we were expected to reach certain mormon goals together, but we were total opposites. He always wanted to play basketball, while I wanted to bake cookies. He got his mission call first as he was born in April. Elder Shortinghouse was assigned to the French West Indies. Brandon Burgess, another friend, received his mission call and was sent to India and then the day came…. My missionary call finally arrived. I opened up. The letter read:
Dear Elder Mook:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Texas Houston Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period or 24 months.
You should report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Wednesday, 18 December 1995. You will learn the discussions in Vietnamese.
Wait, did I read this right? Texas, Vietnamese-speaking. My dreams of going somewhere in South America were dashed. I thought how could this be right? And furthermore, how the heck was I going to learn Vietnamese?
Mormons want to convert everyone to their beliefs. America also took in a large amount of Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam war ended and they were dispersed to certain parts of America: California, Houston, and some were even sent to Nebraska. Can you imagine the culture shock of one day being in Ho Chi Minh city and the next day in Omaha Nebraska?