By the Spirit

By: Keith Trottier Photo Credit: Lindsay Cyngot

Like what you read? PLEASE donate. These posts take a lot of time, thought and effort to put together. So if you’d like me to keep writing: Click Here to Donate!

_____________

Before we start I’m trying something new. I’m giving you the entire text. No Part I and Part II, all of it. I want to see if this is more enjoyable or if I should stick with doing things in parts. Make sure to comment which you prefer and of course share it with your friends!

_____________

“Can I ask you a question?” Elder Yarb asked in his typical cool voice.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

It was a grey autumn day in Spokane and the living room, like my soul in many ways, was under construction. The ceiling was exposed in some places and pink drapes of insulation hung down. The floor was uneven, a patchwork of plywood, and even the sofas and chairs, which we sat on, were in the middle of being remodeled.

“What are we doing wrong?” He leaned forward now in his seat.

“How so?” I asked as I raised a brow in return.

“We’ve taught you all the lessons, and we’ve asked you to be baptized, but you say you still don’t feel the Spirit. So I guess what I’m asking is, what can we do different to help you?” Elder Hall piped up from the couch to his companion’s right.

Without hesitation I responded. “Well, you could try to get to know me. Most of the time you guys just come over here, teach me a lesson, and leave like a pair of robots. I barely even know you, so how then am I supposed to trust what you say or at the very lest care?”

The missionaries sat taken aback for a moment and then nodded.

“Alright,” Elder Yarb began. “what would you like to know about us?”

“Where’re you from?”

“A small town near Ogden, Utah,” he responded in the same even keel voice.

“I’ve been through Ogden. It’s pretty up there,” I said as the memories of my family’s move to Washington flooded back into the forefront of my mind. “So what about you, Elder Hall? Where’re you from?”

“I was from Colorado, but my parents moved to New Mexico after I went on my mission,” he said with the slightest hint of bitterness in his voice.

“Why’d they move?”

“The recession cut my dad’s hours in half so when he got offered a good paying job with more hours down in New Mexico, he took it,” he said staring down at the ground.

“Are you gonna miss Colorado?” I asked cautiously.

“Yeah, but I mean there’s not really a lot there for me. All my friends are on missions, and all the friends who didn’t go on missions are away at college. So I guess it doesn’t really matter how I feel about it. I just miss the Colorado I knew,” he said with a shrug.

“That’s how I feel about Vegas sometimes. I miss my friends, and I miss swimming, but I don’t actually miss Vegas itself. And I guess I really just miss the friendships I used to have, because in all honesty things aren’t the same…I just keep wanting them to be,” It was my turn to look at the patchwork floor now.

“You swam?” Elder Hall perked up in his chair at the mention of the sport.

“Yeah,” I nodded. “Why? Did you swim too?”

“Heck yes I swam,” a smile illuminated his face.

“Don’t you miss it?” I asked in a tone of desperation. There was nothing I missed more than the weightless exhilaration that came when you were on the block waiting to hear that buzzer go off.

“Every day. Swimmer’s high is the best,” he answered.

Elder Yarb sat back in his chair with a look of contentment.

“Right? Swimmer’s high is the best feeling in the world,” I agreed. “What about you Elder Yarb? Did you play any sports?”

He chuckled. “If pouring concrete for your dad is a sport then yeah. I worked after school with my old man to help him with his construction business. Never really had time for sports,” he explained. “Except for hunting.”

“You hunt?” he was so quiet and reserved, well both of them were, but it was hard to imagine Elder Yarb as a hunter.

“Sure do. It’s the best. I go every year. Just before I left for my mission my dad and I filled up the entire back of our pick up with pheasant,” he said with a reminiscent smile.

“So Keith, I have a question for you,” Elder Hall interjected.

“Yeah?”

“When we’ve been teaching you, have you ever felt anything like swimmer’s high?”

“Um…well there was one time when we were talking about Joseph Smith that I felt that way. But it’s mostly been at church that I’ve felt something like that.”

A smile grew upon his face. “Those feelings you’ve had that are like swimmer’s high that’s what the Spirit feels like. It says in the scriptures that it can be like a fire in the bones, or a peaceful feeling. Everyone feels his influence differently, but those good feelings that make you happy like swimmer’s high are the feelings of the Spirit confirming what we’re teaching you,” he concluded with a look of satisfaction.

“You think?” I asked caught up in a flurry of thoughts now.

“I know that those feelings are from the Spirit,” Elder Yarb testified.

__________________

A feeling of swimmer’s high and nausea boiled within my stomach as I walked out the front door into the chilly post winter grey with my new Bishop.  He was a tall, thin man in his fifties with extremely pale skin splashed with vibrate patches of red. A pair of spectacles hung on his sharp nose and a brief case hung at his side.

“How are you today, Brother Trottier?” he asked as he fished his car keys out of the pocket of his large brown trench coat.

“I’m good, how are you Bishop?” I responded as I waited for the door to unlock so I could get into his blue hybrid car.

“Good,” he said as he unlocked the car and we both got in.

This was definitely a change from my first Bishop back in Spokane. He was an Accounting professor at Gonzaga University so he was naturally a pretty busy guy, but he always took the time to really talk to me. Maybe it’s just because I was a convert so I got special treatment, but it was those conversations that saved me time and time again.

I had encountered plenty of different types of Bishops in Brazil. Each excelled at something and each had their own weakness to overcome. I won’t lie. It was sobering to meet those Bishops whose weaknesses seemed to overshadow their strengths.

Men called of God at times forget who they’re called by and what their mission is and in the wake of this slip up people usually end up hurt. The life of a Bishop is hard. Members call you at all hours of the day, work never ends even when you clock out at five, and Sunday—the day of rest—is the longest and most laborious.

I didn’t want to throw this man of God under shiny blue paint job of his hybrid so I thought about how hard it would be to be a Bishop over a ward that completely changes every three months. A guy wouldn’t have much of a chance to really get to know anyone like that.

Rain pitter-pattered against the windshield now as we sat in the car. I looked out at the hedge wall in in front of the car as I tried to avoid the overwhelming feeling of that first meeting awkwardness.

“So Brother Trottier,” he began as he dabbed at his nose with the white handkerchief. “I wanted to extend to you a calling,” my heart started to beat faster now in anticipation and I could feel sweat starting to gather on my palms. “My counselors, the Elder’s Quorum President and I have prayed and the Spirit has confirmed that you are to be the Elder’s Quorum Second Counselor. Do you accept this calling?”

I was in shock. Me? A second counselor in the Elders Quorum? Then something else started to manifest itself within me and like the dawn over a foreign terrain a new section of my character had revealed itself to me. It was a part of me that had been planted within my soul in Maringa and was just now blossoming in my sudden awareness.

__________________

Margina was a fairytale. There was a magic about it that confirmed itself over and over again in the dancing light of the tree tunnel avenues, or in the passion of the summer storms, or in the wild splendor of the blooming flower. It was a city and it was jungle, it was wild and yet it was civilized, it was urban and yet rural. Maringa was a paradox, a dream and for a moment in my short existence I experienced true fantasy.

I had been in the mission for a year now, my Portuguese was terrible, my spirits were low, and I felt like a disappointment. But this had been my chance to start over. It was an opportunity to repent for the past. This was my new beginning and I could reinvent myself as a missionary. I could become better, I could be that missionary, and I could put the lessons of the past to use.

It was a nice thought.

I stormed out of my closet sized, pink room, and out into vacant living room. My companion Elder Fields stormed after me, grabbed me by the shoulder and slammed me down into a dilapidated little sofa chair. His natural mocha complexion was now flushed with rage as he held me fast by my shirt in one hand and had the other raised above him.

“Do it,” I growled through clenched teeth. “Hit me.”

I wanted him to land the punch. I wanted it more than I wanted to breathe or even a baptism, because if he hit me. If he landed a punch, then he would get sent home. He’d be gone, and I’d never have to deal with him again.

“You proud little American. You understand nothing,” if words took form upon being spoken they would have dripped with venom and burned like acid. “You know why you’re still the junior companion Elder Trottier? Do you?”

“No, but I’m sure you won’t spare me the explanation,” my eyes narrowed.

“Because you’re a pathetic excuse for a missionary, that’s why. You don’t know how to work, you don’t know how to speak, and you sure as hell don’t know how to feel the Spirit.”

“I’m learning from the best,” I wanted my words to cut.

The hand came down fast. I closed my eyes and readied myself for the hit but it never came. I opened my eyes to see Elder Fields shaking as he held his hand just centimeters from my face.

My companion let out a cry of frustration and then with all the restraint he had left proceeded to “smack” me across the face. I say “smack” because it was more of a push rather than a slap. But tears of frustration fell from his eyes as he did so and I remember sitting there seething in the pooling hatred I had for this kid who was not much older than myself.

Elder Fields scoffed at me as he let go of my shirt, stalked off down the hall and slammed the door to our bedroom. The door neither opened nor did I get up from the chair for the better part of the day, and I hardly noticed the hours that passed. I was absorbed in what Elder Fields had told me.

It started with a maybe he’s right and over the weeks that would pass turned into he was right. Elder Fields didn’t make me believe those words, I believed them because they were easy. Giving up on myself was easier than believing in myself.

On one night more or less two months after that incident Elder Fields and I came home in our usual demonstration of frustration. He slammed the door to our bedroom and I sat in my chair. The other missionaries we lived with had accepted this to be normal and just sat at their desk planning for the following day.

“Tell me something,” I said butting into their conversation.

The other Elders stopped and turned to look at me.

“Does President hate me?”

“What?” Elder Levitt asked taken aback.

Elder Levitt was a shorter guy who liked to buzz all his hair off and keep things light hearted. He usually had his nose in a book and liked to talk about how he was related to Mitt Romney. He was a good guy who sincerely wanted to help people, and currently those people were my companion and I.

“Does he?” I repeated.

“Why would he hate you Elder?” he asked in return.

“That’s what I’d like to know. It’s like he wants me to fail. I need to be trained. I need to learn how to be a missionary and every transfer he gives me these troubled companions and expects me to do what? Babysit?”

“He doesn’t decide who you’ll be with, Elder,” said Elder Dewey now. “He fasts and prays and the Spirit tells him.”

Elder Dewey was a taller guy with brown hair and a large smile. He, more so than Elder Levitt, liked to keep things light hearted and he usually did this by cracking jokes. Now, however, he had a pitiful expression on his face.

“I know, but sometimes…it just doesn’t feel that way,” I looked at the blue and black speckled tile that spanned the apartment. “I’m just sick of being put down because I’m a junior, and I’m sick of good for nothing companions.”

A long moment of silence passed between the three of us and I imagined Elder Fields must have been on the other side of our door listening in and trying to understand our English.

“One day it’ll make sense and you’ll see it had a purpose,” Elder Dewey assured.

“Will I though? I just feel like I’m a waste of space here, that’s all I’m learning right now. Anyone could do what I’m doing and probably even do it better. I’d probably be more effective if I just went home.”

“You’re right, anyone could be a missionary in your position,” Elder Levitt kicked in. “but that line of thinking isn’t from God, Elder. Don’t think you’re not important. You have something only you can contribute to this area.”

“Well,” I said as I got up. “if President or the Spirit puts me through this again that’s it. I’m just going to pack up and leave. I didn’t sign up for this. I’m here to teach and serve, not be tortured by the people who are supposed to be working along side me.”

I walked off, closed the door to the bathroom and took a cold shower.

Months later I sat down on the curb and put my head in my hands. It was a cool autumn night and the stars sparkled above like some kind of amused celestial audience. I had finally gotten my wish and more. I was training a newbie missionary and what I thought would have made me happy only made me feel more empty. I should have felt important, but being a trainer only made me realize just how flawed I was as I retrospectively dissected all my “teaching” and realized how bad of a job I was doing.

It was as I sat there on the curb that Elder Fields’ words came back to me.

“You can’t work, you can’t speak and you sure as hell don’t know how to feel the Spirit.”

I was pathetic…

__________________

“Of course,” I blurted out.

Bishop gave a thin smile that revealed just a sliver of teeth. “Very well,” he said as he shook my hand. “You’ll be working with Brother Pena and Brother Kid. I’m sure they’ll want to meet with you as soon as possible. Is there anything else I can do to help you Brother Trottier?” he asked.

“No, I think I’m ok. I just need to find a job,” I responded.

“A job? Alright I’ll ask around and get back to you on Sunday,” he said as he wiped his nose again with the white handkerchief.

“Thanks, Bishop.”

“Thank you.”

And with that I stepped out of the car and into the light drizzle. Bishop drove off and I stood there mulling over his words in my head.

“…the Spirit has confirmed…” rang in my mind as I walked back towards Georgetown.

What did that even mean? Everyone in the church claimed what they did to be by the Spirit and yet only a handful of people I actually believed. Some people say that the devil can sway the responses to our prayers and if that’s true then how can we ever really know what we’re doing is of God?

Elder Bednar once said more or less that the only way to know is to do and then look back. Faith it seems comes disguised as a dangerous game of chicken. I thought back to my mission and looked back through the stories and the trials and wondered just when it was, if ever, that I’d see if I’d walked by faith.

I believed it then and still do believe it better to take the chance and risk pain than to refrain. I felt optimistic about this new calling and oddly enough I felt remembered. Maybe I was important to the Lord. Maybe he didn’t hate me because I was gay and maybe this was His way of showing me that.

I had been praying every day since I’d gotten home to be rid of this and nothing had happened. Maybe I was going about the situation wrong. Maybe I needed to try harder. Maybe I just needed to look at girls differently. Maybe I just needed to take a chance and play the game of chicken.

Either way, my new ward now had a gay guy in their Elder’s Quorum Presidency. I wondered if there existed anyone else like me in the world,a same sex attracted member trying to live the gospel and avoid sin, or if I was alone.

_____________

HEY! You’re not done yet! Don’t forget to share this with all your friends. Wanna change the world? Start by spreading the word to your friends!

_____________


Like what you read? PLEASE donate. These posts take a lot of time, thought and effort to put together. So if you’d like me to keep writing: Click Here to Donate!

Tell me what you thought!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s