The biggest defining moment in the Fuhrer's and my relationship was when we were giving a lesson to a man, I think his name was Gustavo.
We had planned to ask him to be baptized (again, something I don't think you can "plan for" but I was going with it because I was really wanting to be transformed by this mission experience! In the MTC, it's a tactic they really hit hard as a primary 'goal' and have you practice in groups. It's all about 'being bold' and asking someone to be baptized the first lesson. It never quite settled with me) … so I gave myself a pep talk and said, "Well, he's either going to become our 'student' or we're never gonna see him again, so who cares if I look like a zealous buffoon…"
I threw caution to the wind and and asked this Catholic man if he wanted to be baptized. Guys, I was so sincere. It was as heartfelt as I could be, as miserable as I was. I said the right things and he responded that yes, he would. The heavens rejoiced, and angels sang. This 'committing someone to be baptized' was a valuable, coveted check-off in our planner for the day and week! It would mean that we met our goal for the day, and we'd report it this week in District Meeting and be met with congratulatory pats on the back from our leader! I was thrilled. Surely, the Fuhrer would think I was alright after all….at least for the rest of the day.
We get in the car after we finish up our lesson, and there is stone cold silence. After a few moments, I squeak out a "Yea!" to break up the ever-present awkwardness. This was our first commitment to be baptized we had ever had together!
She sighed heavily and said, "Yeah, you didn't do it correctly."
"What do you mean?"
"There's specific wording you have to say and you didn't say it."
"We went over it, remember?"
"Oh, yeah… (remembering the section of PMG that goes over it but not realizing it had to be 110% word-for-word). But I thought I did."
"No, sorry, we can't count it."
That's when I started to realize maybe I should call her out.
"I am doing the very best that I can and I don't know what else I could have done," I said, dumbfounded and a little outwardly mad for the first time.
"Fine," she sighed. "I guess you can still text President X and tell him." (That was a thing the President liked to be texted about, affirmatively answered baptismal invitations)
And then I started to get passive aggressive, for the first time putting off my "keep forgiving"/"keep respecting"/"keep deferring"/"keep trying to make her happy" attitude.
"Nah, I don't need to," I said. "I mean, after all, I didn't do it correctly, so why would it count?" I was never in the mission for numbers, and I honestly didn't need to be congratulated because deep down I thought it was a ludicrous thing to count this guy as basically baptized because I had asked this baited question that made it kind of impossible to reply in the negative.
( I was just talking the other week with a spouse of a returned missionary who said people in his mission would ask drunk people on the streets of Brazil as they were walking by if they wanted to be baptized just to get numbers. I laughed and said that even though I would have never fathomed that on mine, I guessed it made total sense, since the mission is, above all, a marketing program. )
We got home and still, I didn't text the President and she never brought it up. I forgot if we actually counted it in our planner after all (I'll have to check…standby for a while…it's at my parents' house).
I opened PMG to see what I had done wrong. I think maybe I was 3 words off. I hadn't said "priesthood" or "authority" or I had used one but not the other, and I just became numb with this sense that I could never succeed and never be correct unless I was perfect in a Pharisitical sense.
A few days later, we saw the Mission President in person and I asked to have a private meeting. I wasn't going to "go through the proper channels" because sorry, I didn't trust 19-year-old boys with handling my issues. My bad.
I sit down and I don't even cry because I'm just so emotionally checked out and wanting to die. I tell him that I think Fuhrer is a little intense and that some things she does aren't quite in the spirit of mission work. He asks me to elaborate, and I tell him the story of incorrectly asking Gustavo to be baptized, shrugging my shoulders in defeat, telepathically begging for some kind of sympathy.
"Actually, she's right," he said. "There is a correct way."
I told him that yeah, I did know about that section in PMG, and I was 3 words off. He just sat there and said, "We have been instructed to use the format in PMG."
I just sat there, numb for the rest of our meeting, as he told me I needed to love her more etc etc and incredibly enough, that I needed to help her grow, too. I was utterly confused with the mixed messages and what he meant.
Fuhrer also had a private meeting with the President. She came out, teary, and we walked out and she said, "I really do love you, Sister." I told her I loved her, too, but man, it was tough to believe her when her actions said otherwise.
Normally in the real world, I would have texted my mom or something for a 3rd party opinion, but this was a mission and so I rode home that night, back up into the hills of God-fearing Appalachia, carrying an even greater weight of loneliness, thinking I could never do anything right and could never talk to anyone else about it who would understand. I would have to wait until P-Day for a few minutes to vent, but that was it. This loneliness depressed me further and made me think erroneous thoughts like there was truly no one who loved me, not even my parents. They, too, would agree that I had not done things perfectly. Or would they? Could I still be their daughter?
I was alone in this, and I was completely wrong about everything. My world kind of collapsed around me as I questioned why God would let anyone experience this kind of loneliness and worthlessness based on wording a sentence wrong and threats of not being "perfectly obedient". Everything in my life I had experienced would point to the Fuhrer and Mission President being pretty Pharasitical, but since I had no one else to talk to, I had to accept their way as absolute. I I then got into a vicious cycle of chastising myself for being so selfish with the whole "starving kids in Africa" cliche, and my sadness compounded from there.