Fond Farewells

Recently, I attended a missionary farewell that did not…er…go well. I mean, it was fine. The young elder spoke about his family, his father, repentance, and he sang a song. He told a series of jokes that weren’t funny, but that his family and a group of girls laughed at. His song was of the sort (you know the sort) written by modern LDS songwriters that is intended to earn tears with references to gospel themes and traumatic life events. It was tremendously cheesy and really not terribly spiritual.

I have never before felt sympathy for this kid (or his family, really (because I am a bitter, cruel man)), but I was filled with empathy for this kid as he spoke. It was awful (really, it was), but he clearly felt like what he was saying was important and that we wanted to hear it from him.

That kid was me!

Not literally, of course. But I remember the farewell talk that I gave (back when farewells were whole hours devoted to the glory of the departing missionary). I was the second missionary to leave my ward in the previous 10 years or so (the first being my brother). I was so certain that I needed to show the ward that I was the appropriate vehicle for their hopes and surrogate missionary dreams. I was going to an “important” foreign mission. I was practically opening up a whole country to the gospel. I was determined to show that I was the spiritual giant I had always pretended to myself that I could be. I was going to blow their spiritual minds.

So, I got up there. I told them about my testimony; I mentioned how I had had all of these cool spiritual experiences and that my testimony was rock-solid. I mentioned how I was going to work hard and be a good example to the youth in the ward. I told them that I would write back to anyone who wrote me.

In hindsight, I can’t believe how full of myself I was; how strong I thought my untested testimony was; how out-of-touch to think that sharing a litany of spiritual experiences would let them know who I was and what I planned to do. I was green, so green, but I was convinced that I wasn’t. What a punk!

I saw all of that in this missionary this past week. It’s Wednesday today, so I assume that he’ll be entering the MTC today and that his parents will leave and he won’t (today, at least). He’ll think it’s the greatest and he’ll think it’s the worst. He’ll eventually get to his mission and find the bravado with which he spoke this past Sunday gone, replaced by some combination of fear, peace, desire, and love. I hope he’ll have a wonderful mission (I did). He’ll be in my prayers.

There has recently been some discussion of mtc mission journals. I don’t have mine handy enough to look at, so I couldn’t contribute to that. But I would like to invite the interested (who remember) to share what they spoke about at their mission farewells and what they think of the topic today.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry for the tangent, but where did you serve? Posted by J. Stapley

  • Anonymous

    This was a fun read. I was so self-important I actually clandestinely taped  my farewell on a cassette player in my suit pocket. /shudder/I still have the tape somewhere, but have never been able to bear the thought of actually listening to it again.My favorite line from a mission farewell was delivered by my best friend who left a month before me: “I’m leaving as a boy. I’ll come home as a man. In the name…” Posted by Justin H

  • Anonymous

    My family moved right before my mission, so both my farewell and homecoming were in front of complete strangers. Which was a blessing in disguise for me, though probably not my parents. As I remember it, both my farewell and homecoming addresses were awful, but at least the homecoming had mission stories in it. Posted by NFlanders

  • Anonymous

    J,Russia Moscow 1994-1996. I received my call on the day that the Russian White House was being bombarded by tanks. Posted by John C.

  • Anonymous

    well you may have been green but think about what it would have been like if you knew you were green, terrified. optamism is essentail in gods plan Posted by chany

  • Anonymous

    Chany,I don’t disagree that optimism is important. I just felt for the kid because it seemed clear that he hadn’t been through any great trials in his life (which actually isn’t true, since he has been through several major surgeries; maybe just not trials that tested his faith). He seemed certain in a way that people who have had a tough time with things usually don’t. I knew (and know) that he was going to face those sorts of trials in the field and I hope he is up to the challenge (I think he is, but I don’t know if he actually realizes it yet). Bravado is by definition false, but in farewells, what else is there? Posted by John C.

  • Anonymous

    I am a person who looks back at the younger me with little pity or compassion. I often loathe myself for doing stupid things. I need to learn to be more gentle.I can relate. While like Ned, I left and came home to ward I did not know, that did not stop me from calling everyone to repentance. What a jerk. Although the funny thing is, I didn’t really have delusions of what the actual mission would be like. I knew that the MTC was a big overblown EFY, and I knew that once I got out there I would be lower than the worms…yeah, I was pretty right on… Posted by carrie ann

  • Anonymous

    well, you know what they say… if the Church wasn’t true, the 19 yr old missionaries would have damaged it beyond repair long ago…. Posted by Rob

  • Anonymous

    I was actually given a topic to speak on, which I appreciated. “Hope in Christ”…it was awesome. I told my favorite missionary joke to start out my talk & it was pretty good from there. Of course, my folks weren’t there (they’re not LDS), but the members complimented me on it afterward & I don’t think they were just being nice. Honestly. :) ~~  Posted by Stephanie


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