The MTC Winds Down

Every P-day we had the opportunity to attend the temple. We would get up early, trudge up the hill to the temple, and change into temple clothes in a special basement dressing room just for missionaries. As we came up the escalator one week, Elder Lynn’s slipper caught in the side of the escalator. It pulled his foot down into the crack, and the slipper wouldn’t come off, being pulled so tight.

As we approached the top of the escalator, I could see that his foot would be pulled into the metal teeth at the top, and this could potentially be a very serious accident. I knelt down next to Lynn, who was by this time frantic, and I tugged as hard as I could on the slipper. I fell backward onto the escalator as the foot pulled free just in time.

At the top of the escalator, I held up the mangled and blackened slipper to an elderly docent, who was standing serenely by the entrance to the endowment room.

“Uh, can we get a replacement for this?” I asked.

“What on earth did you do to it?” she asked, her eyes wide.

“Um, just a little mishap on the escalator,” Lynn said pleasantly.

A few weeks later, we were assigned as a group to do “sealings,” meaning that we would act as proxies for a deceased family. By kneeling across the altar and making certain covenants with God, we could ensure that this family would endure as a family forever.

The night before, I went to bed feeling like I had the flu, which had been going around. I spent a miserable night and then was awakened at 4:30 by Grolsch, who was far too cheerful for that time of the morning.

“Time to go to the temple,” he called out happily.

“I think I have the flu,” I said. “Can you go down to the nurse and get me some medicine?”

“Come on,” he pleaded. “We may never get to do sealings together again.”

“All right,” I said, crawling out of bed.

At the temple I was miserable. I could tell I had a fever, and I just wanted to go back to bed. But I pressed on, kneeling at the altar and holding one of the hermanas’ hands in the “patriarchal grip,” one of the handshakes I had learned in the temple.

When it was over, Michaels said, “You don’t look good. After the session, you should go back to bed.”

“Session? What session?”

“Oh, we’re supposed to do an endowment session, too,” he said.

I have no idea how I sat through nearly three hours of endowment, but I made it through and then went back to the MTC to sleep.

Greg showed up in the MTC about three weeks before I was supposed to leave. He seemed to be much more relaxed than I was. For whatever reason, Finnish wasn’t difficult for him, and he just sort of cruised through the MTC. I ran into him a few times in the cafeteria, but we really didn’t get a chance to talk much.

I had been avoiding the BYU campus the entire time I was there, but we finally went to the bookstore on campus to get Grolsch’s name printed on the cover of his scriptures. I ran into a few friends, and I couldn’t figure out why I felt so awkward and embarrassed. I guess I had already made a mental and emotional break from my life, and it felt like I was taking little field trips back.

Each week we had a big meeting with all the missionaries and a General Authority would speak to us. In our regular meeting, they asked for volunteers for the MTC choir, and that sounded like fun to me. I always enjoyed singing, so I volunteered. Grolsch was extremely unhappy about it, as my volunteering meant that he had to sing, too. For a few weeks we practiced Isaac Watts’ “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The words really moved me:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

I could hardly get through the hymn without bursting into tears. Grolsch, on the other hand, was convinced the song was a holdover from pagan times and a sign of the apostasy of the Catholic Church.

“All that talk about the cross and blood and tears. It’s so morbid,” he complained. “I won’t sing it. I’ll just stand there and mouth the words.”

I think he did just mouth the words as we stood in front of the vast congregation of missionaries. The speaker was Ezra Taft Benson, next in line to be the prophet and leader of the church.

“We don’t ‘Bible bash,’” the octogenarian Benson intoned. “Let me repeat: ‘We don’t ‘Bible bash.’ If we do, we win”—the audience roared—“but we don’t.”

He went on to say that we needed to have the Spirit with us to teach effectively, and we would not have the Spirit if we didn’t love our companions and keep the commandments. It was like they all had the same script.

A few days before we were to leave, we headed to the nurse’s station to get our gamma globulin shots (in the buttocks, of course). A long line of us waited in the hallway. We had all heard about these “peanut butter shots,” which were thick and didn’t disperse into the muscle. I saw a lot of people limping that day, and the guys in our branch who were going to Spain thought it was pretty funny.

One morning our plane tickets and itineraries arrived. We would be taking Lloyd Aereo Boliviano from Miami to La Paz. Haver asked us if we knew what Lloyd Aereo was, and of course, we’d never heard of it.

“Well, there’s this guy named Lloyd who lives in La Paz. Every month he flies his Cessna to Miami to pick up the missionaries. It’s kind of a bumpy ride, but it’s free.”

“Really?” Grolsch’s face was priceless. “What if we crash?”

Both Haver and I burst out laughing at the same time.

“It says here that I’m the group leader, in charge of getting everyone to Bolivia safely.” Grolsch beamed. “That must mean they can trust me.”

“Actually, it means that you’re the first person on the list alphabetically,” said Haver. “Grolsch comes before Williams, so you’re in charge.”

“Well, I’m still in charge,” said Grolsch. I really couldn’t wait to get a new companion.


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