Today is Sister Rachel Frandsen’s twenty-fourth day in the MTC, her fourth Friday and, right about now, probably something like her sixty-eighth meal in the cafeteria. Knowing her, I’m guessing she’s at the salad bar. I’ve written her three times since she’s been gone, cute stories about the kids and little updates on my projects, but I’ve struggled to think of any meaningful advice or insight to give her. So instead I’ll serve up some good old-fashioned self-disclosure.
When I was a green missionary in Castelo Branco, Portugal, my trainer and I developed a nightly ritual wherein she would read me her journal entry from the corresponding day of her mission: her second Tuesday, her third Sunday, and so on. I loved it. Her struggles made me feel slightly less incompetent, and the smallness of her triumphs slightly more capable. In that spirit, then, I offer Rachel (since I forward her all my T&S posts) the twenty-fourth day of my mission.
11 April 1996
Just this tonight—that I’m happy and hopeful and grateful and loved.
Nothing in particular, a million tiny things—we practiced the Joseph Smith principle in class today and I felt happy and satisfied with how I did, due in part to compliments from others it’s true, but also from an inner sense of accomplishment and approbation. I tried to let myself love, and felt much happier about my relationships with others—I was positive, complimentary, light-hearted, I hope sincere. I tried to listen. I need to work on this more. Elder Hillan told me that Brother Houston said that my verb conjugations were very good, that I spoke almost perfectly. Don’t laugh—it made a difference to me! Oh—Sister Kemeny came back into our class, and it made a big big difference for me—I don’t know why, exactly, but I felt so relieved and happy to have another woman in there with me. [Note: I was put in an advanced language district during classtime because I already knew some Portuguese, and for several weeks I was actually companions with an elder during those periods.]
I did fall asleep during personal study and ate too much at dinner.
I also got a letter from Gabrielle which was distressing in a vague sort of way… Just to hear about how different her lifestyle is from mine—not that I’m jealous, not that I wish I were anywhere else, not even that I wish she weren’t doing what she is, particularly… I don’t know exactly why I felt upset. I think I’ll write her a letter and bear my testimony—it’s practically the only thing I can give, and certainly the only thing of value. Except for my love and unflagging acceptance and devotion, of course.
But still I’m happy and hopeful and grateful and loved.
So there it is, in all its humiliating earnestness and self-importance. I was sort of fundamentally insecure, obviously, and struggled mightily to strong-arm myself into the kind of person I thought a missionary should be. Some things never change, I guess. I was forever berating myself for slothfulness and resolving to begin anew in the morning. Mercifully, I didn’t have any particularly spiritual experiences that day: I find it almost unbearably excruciating to read journal accounts of spiritual experiences I’ve had, and invariably my personal embarrassment outweighs any spiritual uplift I might draw from them. Church leaders often counsel members to record spiritual experiences for precisely this purpose—for the future spiritual edification of self and posterity—but for me it just doesn’t work that way. At least not yet; maybe I just need more time.
So there’s no profound analysis here. Psychoanalyze my journal entry, if you like, or share your own 24th day at the MTC, or reflect eclectically on MTC life or journals.