Elder Grolsch

Some of you may have noticed that I have received some comments from my MTC companion, whom I refer to in my book as Elder Grolsch. I don’t have any way to contact him, so I thought I’d just write my response here where he can see it.

Dear “Elder Grolsch,”

I was so happy to see your comments on my blog, as I don’t think I’ve seen you since we met for lunch at BYU some 28 years ago. I apologize if I treated you at all harshly in my book, but I was really trying to write the book as I experienced it, and the young kid that was me struggled with you and the situation we were in. Obviously, I can be a real dick and was often so with you and throughout my mission. I’m sorry for not trying harder to get along.

Looking back on it, I think we were both just in an impossible and stressful position. I’ve thought about you a lot and wonder if you were trying so hard to “go the extra mile” because you were struggling with whether you really believed in what we were doing. At the end of the mission, you told me you weren’t sure you believed in the church, and in the MTC I knew you were trying really hard to have that kind of “spiritual experience” that would give you the testimony you felt you needed. I feel like I did you a disservice because I was so concerned about acting the part of a missionary myself that I didn’t listen to you and didn’t pay much attention to what you needed as a person, not just as a missionary. I’m sorry for that and hope you can forgive me.

If I remember right, you told me that you had been under a lot of pressure from your parents and family to serve a mission, and as I’m nearing 50, I can understand how hard that must have been, especially if you weren’t sure it was the right thing to do. I never felt that overt pressure from my family, though it had been pounded into me from a young age that I had been “preserved” from death for a special mission for the Lord. That puts its own kind of pressure on a young man, and I really took that to heart.

It’s funny how those were only 2 years out of the 49 that have made up my life so far, and yet so much of who I am comes from that experience. My mission has affected my major in college, my career choices, and my choice of spouse. Do you find that the missionary experience contributed a lot to your adult life, even though you walked away from the church soon after we came home? I would imagine so, but I’m just curious.

As far as me being a money-sucking scab, that’s fair enough as far as it goes. I work for a company that does IT work for the federal government, but I like what I do. I’m good at it, and in my own small way I think I contribute to some good things the government does. But no, my career will not have any lasting effects when I’m dead and gone. I’m hoping my book will stick around, even though its sphere of influence is pretty small indeed. Sooner or later I’ll write something I’m as proud of as I am of my book.

Anyway, I hope life has been good to you so far. I again apologize for not being much of a companion to you and hope you can forgive me.

Take care,



6 Responses to Elder Grolsch

  1. I’ve never been on a mission – but this sounds like some very similar regrets I have about some of the interactions I had as a Mormon.

    • runtu says:

      It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost as if we treated others (and ourselves, for that matter) as Mormons first and people second. I’m not saying I did anything bad or wrong, necessarily, but I sometimes think I was looking at life through a sort of template that made it hard to connect with others. I’m sure my current stalker is going to jump all over this, but it doesn’t matter. I think you understand what I mean.

      • robinobishop says:

        I appreciate the effort of putting yourself out there on that mission. Guess it justifies the church’s new heightened requirements on it’s men and women in serving. Obviously with the incredible growth in the church sourced in South America, your personal sacrifice has made the difference for many who subsequently joined apart from your own path.

    • Mike Clark says:

      Actually, it sounds rather like some of the interactions I’ve had with members of the general run of humanity over my 62 years of life. Quite apart from anything in connection with Mormonism that I did that I regret, I can recall situations where I said or did something that I later regretted, and which may have hurt the feelings of people who probably didn’t deserve it.

  2. Mike Clark says:

    I was waiting for you to post something about your book so I could be sure you’d see my comment about the book:

    John, I loved “Heaven Up Here.” I could relate very strongly to most of what you wrote about, except that Germany (where I served) is and was a whole lot more civilized than Bolivia. And I have to say that as far as I could tell, you were a valiant servant of the Lord, and did much good, not only for the Church, but for the people in that country. I actually found my testimony boosted by the message of the book. Whatever happened afterwards is what it is, and it remains to be seen what will happen with that in the final analysis.

    I, too, found that my mission affected my future life profoundly, even that it affected who I married (a wonderful woman from Germany), although I didn’t find her while I was ON my mission.

    Lebe lang und wohl!

    That’s German for “Live long and prosper”. Sort of.

    • runtu says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Mike. I’m glad you found the book positive and uplifting. One of the things I am most proud of is that the book has been well received by people in and out of the LDS church. I just tried to write what happened through the eyes of a much younger me.

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