Apostate Behavior: Chapter 7 The Missionary in Australia

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I felt my proficiency in Spanish was good. I was raised speaking English (US version). However, I was yet unprepared for communication upon arriving in Sydney! Going through Customs I had to ask the official to repeat himself at every question! Australian English was foreign to my unaccustomed ears, as alluded to in the prior Chapter.

My first discussion in Spanish was the same. Book learning and practice don’t always accustom the ear in the presence of a native speaker.

But it didn’t take long to become accustomed to both Spanish and Australian English. My days were spent speaking English unless my companion and I had a teaching appointment or encountered a Spanish speaking person while we were tracting (in LDS Missionary parlance, this is the going door to door activity with the hope of entering the home to teach a “Discussion”) so my ability to communicate improved greatly. By the time my two years were ending, I was frequently complimented on my Spanish and was told I had an Ecuadorian accent (most of the Hispanics I taught or conversed with were from Ecuador; Argentines and Uruguayans followed). As a result, I was asked to translate for Church General Authorities at a Church Area Conference held in Sydney in April of 1976, just prior to my return home. Specifically, President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder William H. Bennett, an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles (a group later to become Quorums of Seventy).

My relationship with the other Elders (missionaries) and, later, two Sisters (female missionaries) was good. I enjoyed each of my companions (none of the Sisters was a companion, somewhat obviously!). I am connected to some of them on Facebook today. There were a half dozen or so, plus or minus at any given time during my mission, that were Spanish speaking like me. Eventually I became a District Leader (oversight over multiple companionships geographically close) and later a Zone Leader (oversight over multiple Districts). At no time did I get a car. I traveled by bicycle, public transportation (bus or electric train), walked, or some combination of these.

I greatly admired and respected my Mission President, Earl C. Tingey. He was/is the same age as my Dad and so, away from home and in a foreign country, it was easy to place a natural trust in him. It helped that I believed then and still believe now that he was and is an honest and good man by nature. He was and is deluded by the LDS cult, as was I.

Two years, less the two months in the LTM, were spent doing what I thought god wanted me to do. I was not a total goody two shoes, as my first “greenie” (new missionary) could attest (he was a strict by the book missionary at first but loosened up later). Life was easy. I would get a monthly check from my parents and would take it to the bank to exchange it for Australian currency, to pay rent for our”flat” (apartment/room), buy food, pay for transportation, repair/resole shoes, take care of any needs.

Oh, and to buy our cartons of Books of Mormon which we sold for 50 cents Australian each, or would give them away at times, if the situation warranted.

We met people from all over the globe and from all walks of life, mostly blue collar workers. We would assist Hispanics find work, get medical help, find housing. At times, anyway. Actually very few. Mostly, we tried to peddle our brand of religion in Spanish.

But the people were great! I loved the Hispanics I met, “member” and “non-member” alike. I loved the Aussies too. All in all it was a great experience for me as a 19-21 year old. I grew from a painfully shy introverted boy to a confident young man.

I returned home in April of 1976, to a new Ward, my family having moved into the new house built in Centerville, UT. Prior to returning home, I was interviewed by President Tingey. During that interview I was counseled to go home, maintain my standards acquired as a missionary, and to get married as soon as possible. Education and work were secondary to marriage.

I suppose it was good I had a girl, not exactly”waiting” for my return, but we had dated prior to my mission. And she was still “available”.

She would become my wife.

A Pause That Refreshes

Any blogger is only speaking into the wind if no one reads. I want to take a moment to give sincere thanks to those reading this blog!

Thank you!

I would also like, from time to time, to be able to share the wisdom of those I follow, which means I may be making such requests as I find our thoughts converging. I learn so much from you!

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 6 The Missionary at the LTM

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Having studied Spanish in high school three years did little to prepare me for the Church’s Language Training Mission. That level was surpassed in the first week due to a program called “Live Your Language” meaning for me only speaking Spanish. We were taught how to ask “How do you say…” so that we could augment our knowledge in the moment.

Missionaries were segregated by language. We all met together, though, as an entire “Mission”. Further divisions were called “Zones” corresponding loosely to actual missions in most cases and consisting of several “Districts” and I was a District Leader. My District did not live in the usual dormitories but were housed in the Larsen home on 900 East, east of the Wilkinson Center (BYU), due to overcrowding. We walked to the Joseph Smith Building (current Benson Building) for classes in the Spanish language and culture. I loved the “Live Your Language” program as well as my daily classes. My fellow missionaries were a good group of guys and we got along well, from my standpoint. If there were issues, I did not see them.

After eight weeks, it was time to fly to Sydney Australia.

The flight on Qantas was long. We stopped briefly in Hawaii to refuel and spiff up the passenger area. We did not disembark. The next stop was in Fiji for the same reasons. We also did not disembark there. Finally, twenty plus hours later, we arrived in Sydney. It was raining. As we were circling before landing, I noted the red tile roofs of many of the homes below.

Being processed through Customs was uneventful except I was unaccustomed to the Australian accent. It was difficult to have a conversation! I kind of felt the first pangs of homesickness or feeling like a fish out of water, not being able to communicate with Australians in English and hoping my Spanish was good enough for any Hispanics encountered! But first things first.

We were met by the Assistants to the Mission President (referred to as AP’s) and were taken to the Mission Home in Wollstonecraft on the north side of Sydney Harbour. The address was, at the time, “Paxton” 5, Wollstonecraft. I don’t recall why some buildings had “names” or if homes did, too. I may have to research that!

Anyway, we were to meet our training Elder (first “companion”) but mine was ill so the Zone Leaders (leaders over multiple Districts) over the Zone I was to be in took me to my first “Flat”. There I met my new companion. He was standing at a gas stove, cooking cracked wheat, dressed only in a robe, with his garments hanging below the robe hemline. The rain and the sick first companion, dressed as he was, was an auspicious beginning, right?

Intermission

Recent blogging has dredged up some long lost memories. Two things, for today: immerse myself in these renewed memories; enjoy a scheduled chat this evening with a friend from long ago, a very intelligent friend (graduated high school in 3 years, graduated from BYU in 3 years, got his law degree from BYU Law School, you know, smart!).

Oh, and it’s a gridiron football playoff weekend ad so I will be watching a little footy. 🏈😎

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 5 The Missionary

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I don’t remember packing. I don’t remember the drive to Salt Lake City. I don’t remember parking.

I do remember there was a “Welcome Missionaries” banner inside the entryway to the Salt Lake Mission Home, where I was to spend the next three days. My memories of those three days are too dim 45 years later! Only one thing I do recall vividly was we got to spend the afternoon with family after registration. Then it was goodbye.

So, what did my family and I do that free afternoon? Did we go grab a bite to eat and chat about what lies ahead, what’s gone on before, joke and kid around? Nope. None of that.

We meet my maternal grandparents at the genealogical library. We spent the afternoon doing genealogy.

Awesome.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy genealogy. But then, on that afternoon, a good burger would have been much better, I think!

The three days passed and I am sure I was fully indoctrinated with rules and instructions. I was excited, yes, but was never one to be full of fire and missionary zeal. Introvert, remember?

Oh, a memory from those three days just surfaced! Okay, one from those days and another prior. I will start with the latter.

I had received my endowments February 1, 1974. It was a unique experience, for sure. I concerned myself, though, with trying to remember the process, making sure I could do it again without prompting or assistance.

I was certainly aware of how “different” it was. Making covenants without having known what they would be beforehand. Special handshakes. Pantomiming ways I could die if I ever revealed the “signs and tokens” that went with the covenants. Oh, and a secret new name.

Definitely unexpected, for sure. But I was told there was a lot of meaning to be found in the ceremony. I was told it might take a lifetime to tease out even a small part of all the knowledge found in the endowment.

I now figure that’s just a ploy to encourage attendance! There’s just not all that much to it!

Unless you’re a Freemason.

Even then, there isn’t much.

The other memory was a special session in the Salt Lake Temple in the Solemn Assembly room, upstairs. We went behind the sealing rooms, passing by the locked door to the Holy of Holies. Then upstairs. I was in awe.

I do not recall the General Authorities present. There were some. One or more allowed us to ask any question we wanted. Because I don’t recall anything earthshaking, we must not have asked anything noteworthy.

The three days passed and it was time to head to Provo, to the LTM. It was raining. I was a Missionary.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 4 Return to Zion

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

A move to the Deep South halfway through fifth grade and then 5 years in a western Chicago suburb gave me experience “in the world” while learning how to bifurcate worldly life from religious life (Mormon concept: as members, we are advised to live in the world but be not “of it” – this idea probably stems from the New Testament, see the book of John).

Chapter 2 ended with me heading to college. I was accepted to Brigham Young University. The fall semester of 1973 would be the only semester I would attend prior to my mission call (see LDS Church website topic on Missionary Work – calls are not based on the desires of the potential missionary but are “inspired” by the Missionary Selection Committee). As I mentioned, I lived with the second eldest of my mother’s younger brothers (Mom was the eldest of my grandparents’ 9 children – 5 daughters, 4 sons) in Pleasant Grove, Utah to save some money to help support me when my mission call was issued.

However, prior to moving to Provo, I attended Church in our new Ward in Bountiful, the Bountiful 13th Ward. There I met the girl who would become my wife after my return from Australia. She was tall, blond, and pretty, with big pretty eyes. She was friends with the sister of one of my friends who also moved to Bountiful from the Chicago area and whose family were members of the West Suburban Second Ward (later becoming the Naperville Ward) with my family. Their father was a counselor in this new, to us, Bountiful Ward Bishopric.

Also before heading to BYU, I took a language aptitude test. I don’t recall if I received the results or not, but it doesn’t really matter to my story. That they needed to test my aptitude does. In my own opinion, it goes directly to the idea of “inspired” calls.

Just hold that thought for a bit.

BYU.

Dallin H. Oaks was the University President. You remember him; he was a counselor in the Chicago South Stake Presidency while my family lived there. For a bit of a biography, look here, here, and here.

Anyway, I attended my first BYU semester and prepared for my mission call. College was quite different from high school! I had to be more self-directed and I that did not come to me easily. I was an introvert, as I have mentioned before.

My mission call came in the Spring of 1974 after that first semester ended. Here is the certificate from the front of my Mission “White Book”, which contained general Church rules of conduct for Missionaries (there was a separate White Book specific to my mission!):

mission call

My call was to be a Spanish speaking missionary in the Australia East Mission, which was headquartered on the north shore of Syndey Harbour in Sydney Australia. Hmmmmm, Spanish-speaking in Australia? Weird, eh? I thought they spoke English! One of my uncles, the very same one I lived with my first BYU semester, also served a mission to Australia, about 10 years earlier. I knew they spoke English!

This call was interesting in that my own internal desire was to serve a Lamanite mission (Hispanic or Native American) outside of the United States. This call fulfilled that desire. Also, I apparently had an aptitude for language But, was my Spanish-speaking call inspired or was it based on the results of my aptitude test?

One wonders!

With the receipt of the call, I did not enroll in another semester at BYU. Rather, I went with my Mom to Mr. Mac’s for two suits, a few white shirts, some ties, and a couple pair of shoes that would, hopefully, last for two years. Hardly anything else was needed as I was to travel rather light. The girl I had met and had gone on a few dates with me, several doubling with my Chicago friend and the girl holding his attention, said she would not “wait” for my return and I thought that was fair and mature. We were yet young. I still had hopes she’d be available after the mission.

But before I was to go to Australia I had to be able to teach and converse in Spanish. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school but still had to attend the Church’s intense 8-week language training course at the Language Training Mission (LTM) located on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. I would go there after a three day stay in the Salt Lake Mission Home across the street from Church Headquarters aka the Church Office Building skyscraper on North Temple.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 3 Chicago – Brief revisit

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Before I continue with the move back to Utah, I have a little more to say about my time in the Chicago area.

I was not popular in high school but, then again, I was not exactly unpopular either. I was a bit of a geek but made friends with those who were also a bit geeky and, maybe because I participated in football my freshman year and was injured, I got to be friends with a few others.

Ronnie Davis, Bob Manley, and another (name withheld), who ended up being my best friend in high school, were a core that I hung around with until Bob moved. I collected a few others here and there. I found a few more after high school who were not part of the crowd I ran with and they remain good friends today. I was able to see a few in October 2017 at an All Years Reunion in Lisle, Illinois. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip! These friends are people whose friendship I will cherish for life.

I am still in touch with my best friend from those days. He, however, found the courage to be the person that was always inside, hidden. He is now a transgender she and we remain very good friends. My wife has taken the place of my best friend but I am pleased I still have that friend from the past who is becoming, day by day, more of the person she was meant to be, against all the prejudice still in existence today.

The Church became a more solid party of my life in Lisle. I grew in responsibility in the Aaronic Priesthood. I made several Church friends, too. I learned to keep the two worlds apart. I learned to keep things hidden when people would not understand them because they belonged to a different part of my world. This “skill” was used later as I learned more and more about Joseph Smith, Jr. and the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I began piling up a heavy load on my mental “shelf” (a term used by many former Church members to describe setting aside uncomfortable issues to be dealt with later, even until the afterlife).

Throwback Post Regarding Cults

Yup, that word again! However, if it applies…

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/laughingindisbelief/2017/03/finland-votes-to-protect-children-from-christianity/

So Finland recognizes religion as Bronze age mythology. It’s about time a whole country did!!!

But your religion has been around a long, long time and just can’t be a cult? Really?

I suggest you think again.

Go Finland!

Edit: Just came across this

New Year Post Mortem

My last post showed my level of frustration after just shy of three years since my “fatal” (LDS Church membership-wise) Facebook post January 31, 2016, wherein I declared Joseph Smith, Jr. was a fraud. He was a fraud! It’s more clear to me now than ever before! It’s still not a concept my family is willing to entertain, though.

My studies in recent advancements in cognitive and neurological science have broadened my understanding of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Along with the backfire effect, I should have known better than to post as I did on Facebook! I should know by now that I cannot convince my family to think for themselves. They have drunk too deeply the Kool-aid of Mormonism.

I should have known, and I did know! But my hubris overcame common sense and I posted. Stupidly.

My bad!

So I had to apologise and suck up my pride. I will now act as if I was wrong, which I was, in a way. Too much hubris!

Never again.

My religious posts will remain here, on my blog.

With you, dear reader! Thank you for spending time with me and my rants and thoughts. This whole process serves to help me grow and mature, as a person and a writer.

Happy New Year!

New Year Break and Facebook

I was passionate! I was open! I was honest! I was blunt!

And I failed.

Facebook sucks.

Unless your posts are benign, humorous, catchy, or contain pictures and videos of cats, they suck.

You would think I had learned this lesson many times before, and I have. It has now “stuck”. I will never post as I did again. Ever.