Friday, March 7, 2014

Elder Peterson's Mission Memories by Jeff Laver

Steve Petersen has been hoping his homosexual feelings are "just a phase." But as a nineteen-year-old embarking on a two-year Mormon mission in South America, he realizes those feelings are still there, and that he’s attracted to another missionary -- the companion he’s been assigned to be with twenty-four hours a day.
Set in 1972, less than three years after Stonewall, these missionaries have been taught by their church that homosexuality is an abomination, and those who suffer from those tendencies must repent. Worse, they're told that with God’s help, fervent prayer, and mind over matter, they can become heterosexuals. Steve's conflict is real and heart-wrenching; he’s an official representative of his church, but he's falling in love with his companion. Can he reconcile his church doctrine and the feelings in his heart?  

"Elder Petersen, I'm assigning you to Cali. It's a big city with about a million people. Elder Evans will be your companion. He's new to Cali as well. He's transferring from Armenia today. My assistants will take you to the airport and give you the address of your house in Cali. I'm sure Elder Evans will be there when you arrive. He's from Salt Lake too, and will finish his mission in late August. I'm sure you'll make a good team. His picture's next to yours there on the board."
I looked at the picture and recognized my new companion immediately.
"I know him. Sort of..."
The President smiled. "Small world. Don't call him by his first name. Remember, he's Elder Evans now. I'm sure you'll make a great team."
I flew to Cali and gave the cab driver the address I had been given. There were deep potholes in the residential side streets of my new neighborhood. The cab driver found the house, pulled over and turned out the headlights. Elder Evans came out to greet me and help me in with my luggage. He had removed his tie and had undone the top button of his characteristic white shirt. I gulped when I glanced from his face to his Adam's apple and the dimple below it, then again into his smiling eyes. They were blue and sincere. He had light brown hair and was six feet tall, with a slender, muscular build. He had powerful shoulders and arms.
"Welcome to Cali," Elder Evans said as he gave me a hug. His hands were strong, but felt gentle as he patted me on the back. "I'm new here too, so we'll learn our way around together. I've worked with several of the missionaries here before, though. Where are you from, Elder Petersen?"
"Salt Lake. The same part you're from. I recognize you from high school."
He looked at me quizzically, but with a guilty expression. "Sorry, I don't remember you. Did we know each other?"
"Not really. You were a senior when I was a sophomore. I just remember your face."
Our high school had nearly 3,000 students in grades 10 through 12. We had overlapped only one of our three years there. I had been a tenth grader, a sophomore, who didn't stand out from the crowd. I remembered him as a twelfth grader, a senior, who was an elected student officer, on the football and wrestling teams, and involved with several other student groups. He had been hard for me to miss. Not only had he been involved in so many extracurricular activities, but also I remember noticing him in the crowded hallways at school simply because I thought he was drop-dead gorgeous.
Of the approximately 1,500 male students in our school that year, there had only been about six that I found really exciting to look at. And here I was, assigned as a missionary companion to one of them. I would have to be careful to keep my thoughts in order. We were sometimes reminded that even if we didn't do anything, it was a sin to "lust in our hearts."

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