Chapter 4: Reunion

The mission’s big 15 passenger transfer van, fondly nicknamed the Baptism Buggy by us missionaries, pulled into the parking lot beside me.  I stepped out of our truck into the brisk April air and greeted the missionaries from the van.  We hugged and they congratulated me for finishing my mission.  “Are you excited to go home?” they asked.  I grinned and told them I couldn’t wait.  We loaded my stuff into the back of the van, and we were on our way to Omaha.  The stretch of I-80 between Grand Island and Lincoln, Nebraska is probably the most boring drive on the face of the planet.  Straight as an arrow for nearly 100 miles, flat as a pancake, and nothing to look at besides corn fields in all directions and the occasional barn or telephone pole.  I was one of about 4 people in the giant van, so there wasn’t much talking going on as the endless corn fields rolled by.

The reality of my impending future set back in. My whole life to that point had been geared towards getting me to serve a mission.  Its importance had been drilled into me since I was a young child.  When boys turn 19 they go on missions.  It’s just the way things work.  Now I had finished my mission, and was expected to go home, find a wife, go to school, get a career, and live on.  It’s just what everyone did.  Unfortunately, I knew that might never happen for me.  Not the wife at least.  The Lord, however, had promised me that I would be ready for a wife when I returned from my mission.  I was now finished, and the “worthy daughter of Eve” He had promised me was waiting for me to sweep her off her feet and into the temple.   All I had to do was find her, this one special girl who would be my cure.  I was terrified.  The thought of being with a woman was daunting.  How could I ever be attracted to a female?  Sure, most of my friends growing up were girls, but they were just that: friends.  I had no problem connecting to girls.  But could I really love one and provide her with everything she deserved?  Would I be able to be attracted to her the same way I was attracted to guys?  What if I couldn’t?  No, I wouldn’t think about that.  I would be single if I couldn’t make it work with a woman.  That’s that.  The thought of being with a man was forbidden.  I would never do that, and the possibility of that even being an option was a terrifying horror to me.  No.  I would be with a woman or alone, nothing else.

The clouds overhead became a soft gray blanket, blocking all direct sunlight as the corn fields were finally broken and replaced with the sprawling neighborhoods of Lincoln.  The state’s capitol building stood as a monument to Nebraska’s greatness, its dome-topped tower embellished by a statue of a man sowing seeds ever watching over the city that was its home.  Here we stopped and a few more missionaries joined us on our journey to Omaha.  Somehow I managed to fall asleep somewhere between Lincoln and Omaha.  I guess being extremely tired after two years of constant struggle, extreme emotions, and intense pressure will do that to you.

Finally my trip across Nebraska was over and I arrived at the home of my mission president.  All of the departing missionaries were there, the same guys I had been trained with at the very beginning of our missions.  I had not seen many of these missionaries for a long time, and it was fascinating to see the growth and learning that each of us had experienced throughout our two years in Nebraska.  We had a delicious meal of roast beef (my favorite meat ever), rolls, carrots and other scrumptious food, and then piled into the mission van to go to the temple together one last time.

It began to rain softly as I was walking towards the front doors of the temple, and I knew that my family would be there to see me, and my heart raced with excitement and nerves. As we neared the doors to the temple, I could see my little brother and sister inside.  I took a deep breath as my heart trilled, and stepped into the entrance lobby of the temple and hugged my little siblings I hadn’t seen for so long.  It felt so good to see them in person.  They told me that the rest of my family was already upstairs waiting for me and changing into their special white clothes that are worn inside the temple.  I climbed the stairs and saw my older brother and his wife chatting with one of the older women who worked in our mission office.  I greeted them and hugged my brother and met my new sister-in-law for the first time.  Our session of the temple ceremony was starting very soon, though, so I didn’t have time to say a proper hello to them.  I went and changed into my white clothes and made my way to the ceremony room, where my mom and dad were waiting for me.  I sat down between my dad and older brother, and waved at my mom, who was at the very end of the row and unable to get to me.  Throughout the temple ceremony I kept making eye contact with my dear mother and grinning as I saw her smiling at me.  At long last, the ceremony was over, and we all moved into the peaceful celestial room which represents heaven.  I finally gave my mom a very big hug and told her how much I missed her.  My mom, dad, older brother, and sister-in-law were all there, my two younger siblings too young to participate in that particular ceremony at the temple.  It was a wonderful reunion of our family, standing in that peaceful room with its white furnishings, stained glass windows, and large crystal chandelier hanging from a dome in the center.  This was truly heaven, and I could not stop smiling.  After spending a few minutes in there reveling in the presence of my family, I started to introduce them to all the people from my mission who were there, my mission president, and the other missionaries.

Eventually we made it out of the temple, changed back into our regular suits, and reunited with my younger siblings in the waiting room.  We stood there catching up for a little while and then made our way across the street, now soaked with rain, to the church’s museum about the Mormon pioneers who stayed in that area over a winter.  At the museum, we all met in a big room, us missionaries, our families, and other people from the mission, and had a spiritual testimony meeting.  Each one of the departing missionaries bore our testimonies, and meeting concluded with my mission president and his wife bearing theirs.  The spirit of god was strong, and most of the room was reduced to a puddle of tears, including me.  After this most spiritual gathering, the other departing missionaries, our mission president and his wife, and I went upstairs to the “Memorial Room” which overlooks the temple and the cemetery where many of the pioneers were buried so long ago.  There we took photos and had a more intimate meeting with each other, where we shared some of our goals for the future.  We all hugged each other and said our goodbyes, and I was then free to go with my family to their hotel.

By the time we finally arrived at the hotel it was late at night, so we simply said our goodbyes, and went to our separate rooms.  I was to share a room with my parents, and I knew what I had to tell them.  I had been stressing out about this discussion for several months, and I knew exactly how I would begin, and that this was the time to do it.

“Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something.”  I said nervously, “I have same-gender attraction.”  That’s as far as my plan went.  I waited for what seemed like an eternity for them to respond.

Finally my mom said, “We will always love you.”  Suddenly my nerves calmed, and I knew that everything would be ok.

“Yeah, we can work with that,” my dad explained hesitantly.  I could tell that he was having a harder time with this news than my mom.   It was just as I expected.

They reassured me that everything would be OK, and that they would never stop loving me, no matter what.  They encouraged me to continue to follow the gospel, and keep the standards the church had set, and I reassured them that I planned on doing just that.  After more reassurances of their love for me, we went to bed.

I lay awake in my bed thinking about what had just happened.  It was done.  I was on my way home from my two years of hell, and I was out in the open with my parents about my struggle.  I was starting a new phase of life and the thought both terrified and calmed me.

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