Stating my desire to be a missionary in Japan someday
On a weekend field-trip to Unzen National Park when I studied abroad in Japan, I was in an onsen (hot spring bath) chatting with a Garrett and Derek. Garrett told me Japan wasn't a Christian nation, and asked why I decided to study here. I gave several reasons, including that I came to Japan also so I could preview their culture in the best possible way in order to learn what to expect when I became a missionary to Japan someday.
In those times, I was a "mainstream" Christian (which is my term for either Protestant or Nondenominational.) I also went to a non-denominational campus ministry called "The Navigators." I was not sure which church or organization I was going to be a missionary for, but The Navigators seemed a likely bet. They had ministries in a few locations in Japan, and thought this would be the most exciting cause to serve.
Offering to have me meet with a pair of Missionaries
From telling Garrett that I wanted to train to be a missionary here, the following week, he told me to come with him and meet a couple of missionaries who first met him on a street corner the semester before I arrived. He said they were Mormons, so I hesitated and asked what time our meeting with them would be. The time would be 7-8:30.
There appeared a chance to give a valid reason to decline, as my host family's dinner was at 7 every night. Upon telling him this, and the fact that since I was already feeling hungry that didn't help me feel inclined to meet them, he said, "Then I'll Buy You Dinner." I thought that offer was so generous (especially considering how expensive eating out was in JAPAN,) so I accepted.
We ate together, and I called my host father to tell him I'd meet with friends so I'd have to skip their dinner tonight while we went down to the Nagasaki branch church.
Meeting the Missionaries
There's where I met Elders Anderson and Matheson. Garrett introduced me to them and pretty much everyone at the church was the friendliest I've seen in a while.
Then we started having lessons and doing things together that helped elate my mood and feel better accepted.
When I learned that Matheson was from San Diego, I told him I had planned to visit Uncle Steve who also lived down there when I flew back to the U.S. so I may get to visit Matheson as well, hopefully.
We had plenty of adventures, which all continued even through the missionary switch-ups (Matheson --> Carter on June 1st, Anderson --> Tausinga on the 2nd week of July.) I felt I got plenty out of it.
I would elaborate on a lot more but what I have in mind may be irrelevant to this topic.
After returning to the US
I got to visit Uncle Steve and wanting to be sure I made good on my promise to Matheson months earlier, I found his missionary business card somewhere in my belongings and called the phone # on it. I was able to make contact, and agreed upon a time to meet.
Matheson, Ferons and I met up and he first took me to the local Temple. That's where he gave his museum curator-style speech about this temple and relevant histories thereof. He also showed me an album of inside photos. Then he got some kind of form he had me fill out, and I wasn't sure what the form was at the time, so I gave the benefit of the doubt and filled it out.
We had plenty of fun times together for a few hours after and he eventually dropped me off at Fry's because I was planning to buy a 12-language electronic dictionary there anyway (which, when I heard that they had this, was a FAR better deal than the 2-3-language "denshi jishos" in Japan for the same price. That had it so the "cost per language" ratio of Fry's pocket dictionary made it a steal!)
After returning to Manhattan, KS
A few days after I got some Navigators buddies to move my boxes back to the apartment (they didn't opt to help me unpack though), Elders Olsen and another whom I forget, visited me, saying there was a referral slip from a Stephen Matheson in San Diego. However, since they served the main Marlatt branch, they re-referred me to the sisters - Pollock and Harrington at the time.
They visited and decided to give me a ride to take me to tour the Institute. I told them my apartment looked sparse right now because it would take quite a long time for me to unpack all on my own. After the first home study session, they asked me if I'd let them get members from the branch to help me unpack.
The first members I got acquainted with was Spry and Roberts. There were a few others that came along to help further the process along but I forget which ones they were.
In the meantime, I did not want them to see a certain genre of books so I took them myself and hid them in other drawers. I'm afraid Andie and one or two other members already spotted them by that time, but at least they did not bring it up at the time.
(No, if anyone was wondering, they weren't porno magazines. You could say that these books were the kind a few psychology professors may make a required or strongly recommended part of the class readings.)
Getting to know each other
I got acquainted with plenty of members there and was impressed that we looked out and cared for one another more closely than the previous churches I've been to. This seemed to be the answer I was looking for. I felt more accepted here than nearly all other churches I've been to. (I was still pretty accepted in others, but they didn't seem to pay attention to each other as much.)
(I know I have more to write in this section; maybe when I think about it more I'll add.)
And I guess the rest is history. (Maybe?)
Onto the latest developments that doesn't exactly relate to the original topic of the note:
Two forces have been pulling me in opposite directions lately; I've become a rope in a spiritual tug of war. I'm being pulled toward and away from the church at once.
The Shakespearean parlance of the King James bible and BoM (and its other ancillary books) doesn't help me understand as much as the more contemporary bible versions do. (Ex: "...beseech thee." "I'm sorry? The Beech Tree?") I also don't seem to feel any elation from their hymns as opposed to contemporary Christian pop. (Jars of Clay, Sonic Flood, and others you've heard of.) Those reasons are what pull me away.
At the same time, many endearing qualities about the church that I've already mentioned and that you know as well as I do, pull me towards the church.
I am being stretched down the middle.
Perhaps it's something I'm not doing?
However, I probably didn't do something, or I did something wrong. I think the other members at our church feel the same elation that I'd feel from listening to contemporary christian pop, if not an even better feeling. If so, then please tell me - why don't I feel the same as what they feel and what could I do to start feeling it? If I feel sleepy from these hymns, then SOMETHING is MY fault. I'll not place blame elsewhere anymore. I figured out from introspection that I'M not doing something (right) here.
Even though I'll go over this with the current missionaries and hear what they say, you can feel free to state your take on this if you wish.
(I may have had more to say on something to do with all this, but my mind's faltering right now so I'll stop for now and hopefully append later. But most of the above describes how I was brought into the LDS in the first place.)