Recently, I attended a missionary farewell that did not...er...go well. I mean, it was fine. The young elder spoke about his family, his father, repentance, and he sang a song. He told a series of jokes that weren't funny, but that his family and a group of girls laughed at. His song was of the sort (you know the sort) written by modern LDS songwriters that is intended to earn tears with references to gospel themes and traumatic life events. It was tremendously cheesy and really not terribly spiritual.
I have never before felt sympathy for this kid (or his family, really (because I am a bitter, cruel man)), but I was filled with empathy for this kid as he spoke. It was awful (really, it was), but he clearly felt like what he was saying was important and that we wanted to hear it from him.
That kid was me!
Not literally, of course. But I remember the farewell talk that I gave (back when farewells were whole hours devoted to the glory of the departing missionary). I was the second missionary to leave my ward in the previous 10 years or so (the first being my brother). I was so certain that I needed to show the ward that I was the appropriate vehicle for their hopes and surrogate missionary dreams. I was going to an "important" foreign mission. I was practically opening up a whole country to the gospel. I was determined to show that I was the spiritual giant I had always pretended to myself that I could be. I was going to blow their spiritual minds.
So, I got up there. I told them about my testimony; I mentioned how I had had all of these cool spiritual experiences and that my testimony was rock-solid. I mentioned how I was going to work hard and be a good example to the youth in the ward. I told them that I would write back to anyone who wrote me.
In hindsight, I can't believe how full of myself I was; how strong I thought my untested testimony was; how out-of-touch to think that sharing a litany of spiritual experiences would let them know who I was and what I planned to do. I was green, so green, but I was convinced that I wasn't. What a punk!
I saw all of that in this missionary this past week. It's Wednesday today, so I assume that he'll be entering the MTC today and that his parents will leave and he won't (today, at least). He'll think it's the greatest and he'll think it's the worst. He'll eventually get to his mission and find the bravado with which he spoke this past Sunday gone, replaced by some combination of fear, peace, desire, and love. I hope he'll have a wonderful mission (I did). He'll be in my prayers.
There has recently been some discussion of mtc mission journals. I don't have mine handy enough to look at, so I couldn't contribute to that. But I would like to invite the interested (who remember) to share what they spoke about at their mission farewells and what they think of the topic today.