I was recently rereading my missionary journals. It was not a particularly flattering experience. Fully a quarter of my journals deal with the MTC, where I apparently had lots of time to write self-indulgent theological meanderings and petty complaints about my companions. Lots of petty complaints. Once I get to Korea, the journals are depressingly self-centered. There is a great deal of self-reflection and taking of my own emotional and spiritual temperature. I also write in embarrassing detail about food.
On the other hand, there were a couple of redeeming passages. For example, starting on October 19, 1994 I began giving a title in my journal to each day, and some of them are still amusing. For example, I entitled my first visit to a Korean hospital “like M*A*S*H sort of” or one exhausting day’s work recorded as “There are times when I don’t feel like complete sentences”. Others are funnier if you know Korean and missionary culture, such as “San, Shin, Sool” (punning on a Korean elder’s name), “Gwalija Dodging” (Gwalijas are the caretakers of large apartment buildings”), and “Knee deep in English spases.” Others are just pretentious, like the day all our investigators “faked” which earned the title “Waiting for Gidot.” One day, written after I had been in a struggling area for a while, is entitled “Adjusting to life in the bombsite.” I was grateful for this, written November 14, 1994:
I’ve decided the church is true. I love the Gospel, the Atonement — Christ, resurrection, repentance — the Restoration, the saga of the opening of the dispensation, the covenants and the saints. I love to read the scriptures, pray, and sing the hymns of Zion. I love the church.
Now I bet you’re wondering why I am saying this. Well I had a vision today. I saw myself a few years down the road. I was tired, doubting, and confused. And I remembered my mission. The rejection and boredom and suffering and (I hope) successes. I remembered my testimony. So I went to my old missionary journal, and it gave me strength. So if I am reading this, of if someone else is, I want you to know that this afternoon, I read the Book of Mormon, and the Gospel of John. I listend to “Pachabel’s Canon” on a somewhat sickly tape recorder, and I read in the Ensign about the Book of Mormon in family home evenings and the Tabernacle Choir’s tour through the Midwest. I did this in Young-Do, Hanguk, thousands of miles from Salt Lake and I expect thousands of miles from where this book is now. And as I sat there in my dirty P-day sweats, it felt very, very good to be a Mormon. I felt love, commitment, conviction, and peace, and it was very real. Hang on! Endure to the end! Sing “Come, Come Ye Saints” and think about it. The Church and the Gospel are true. I know that right now and you can take strength from that.
And I did.