I am serving as a missionary in the Philippines. My trainer has taught me well and has shown me a wonderful example of an obedient missionary. I find out on Monday that in two days he will be transferring and I will be companions with an Elder to whom obedience is not priority, and I’m faced with the choice: Do I stay strong and true to the example my trainer set for me, or do I become complacent and go along with my new companion’s disobedience?
Regrettably, I made the wrong decision and chose disobedience, but thankfully that decision was short lived.
In my life leading up to this moment, serving a mission was a difficult decision for me. I was not sure if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could be that good. In the MTC and with my trainer in the field I was very obedient, but more out of necessity. The blessings and the Spirit were obviously placed in my life in the largest measure I had known in my life, yet I still was not sure if all that obedience is what I wanted. In the moment, my obedience was blind.
The major ethical issue in place here is my attitude toward covenants I made with God at the time I accepted my mission call to give two years of my life to Him and obey His standards, not giving up a minute. At the moment I had to ask myself, “How do I view my mission? How important is this time to me? How important is my time to God?” It was an obvious choice of right vs. wrong and the choice would reflect my devotion and the platform of testimony and faith I currently stood on.
I was one of the biggest stakeholders in this dilemma. The choice I made here would have an everlasting effect on my life and how I remembered my mission thereafter. How would this decision affect my testimony? How would it affect the rest of my mission? What affect could this decision have had on my salvation? However, it was not just my salvation at stake here. My decision could greatly affect my companion, the ward members, my investigators, everybody living in the area, and even go as far as affecting my future children.
The potential consequences for myself and others are monumental in this decision. For myself, it could have meant either a strengthened testimony and resolve to live the commandments for the rest of my life or an attitude that I am higher than the rules and don’t need to keep the commandments to remain happy. It could have fortified me against the temptations of the devil forever or make me weak and vulnerable, ruining the rest of my mission and potentially my salvation. My companion had the potential to see my example of obedience and change his attitude toward the mission rules, helping him to strengthen his testimony and get back on the right path. However, I chose wrong and it solidified him more in his ways and he continued in disobedience for the rest of his mission. Because of our disobedience trust from the members was lost. If we had chosen to work hard and be obedient, trust would have been strengthened and the testimony of members could have been strengthened and they could have been more inspired to share the gospel with their friends. Had I continued in my disobedience, I could have affected the missions of every one of my companions thereafter, including any other missionary I had influence over, possibly influencing them to follow me in disobedience. That being the case, not only my investigators would have been affected, but the investigators of every missionary that I had influenced. The salvation and conversion of investigators and converts would have been in serious jeopardy, whereas if I had chosen obedience, the investigators would have a better chance at feeling the Spirit from us and experiencing the full conversion process. The consequences of my decision could even impact the lives of my future children. If they were to ever ask about my dedication to the Lord’s work and my testimony of obedience, I couldn’t answer them honestly that I was a good missionary. That kind of response could have devastating effects on the testimonies of my children and their desires to serve the Lord. Based off of the consequentialist theories, I chose the wrong path. My decision, had it been carried on for longer than a couple of weeks, would have only had devastating results on everyone around me. To make the decision the consequentialist theory suggests would have been to remain obedient and help my companion to do so as well.
My chief obligation in this situation is to my Heavenly Father. By choosing the path of disobedience here I toss aside covenants I made with the Lord when I accepted my mission call as well as at the time of baptism. Doing so will lose the Lord’s confidence in me and result in a loss of the Spirit as well. My second obligation is to the wonderful Filipinos that I served. I needed to be choosing obedience in order for me to have the Spirit and the guidance essential for inviting them to come unto Christ. Without the strength of my obedience, the people in my area of responsibility were relying upon my own personal ability to teach the gospel. If I had my obligations in clear view when faced with this decision, I would have chosen obedience.
When considering the Mormon community I was born and raised in and the nature of the work I was doing. I definitely made the wrong decision. If my decision and following actions were published or made public I would have been humiliated and probably would have run off to hide and become a hermit. The things I did were in secret and I was ashamed of them. I would have lost any respect that my fellow missionaries had for me if they knew what I was doing. If I had been called to a leadership position in my disobedience I would have had no moral authority, and other missionaries were bound to have found out. When I realized the disparity between my character and integrity and the level they should be at, I realized with it that I needed to repent and made all the necessary changes.
Looking back now and seeing the stupidity of my decision, I still think it would have been very difficult to change my companion, yet I see a possibility for a few different solutions. Had I chosen obedience, I could have informed my zone leaders of my concerns and asked them to talk to my companion. Disobedience may not have even been a problem if I had simply chosen to be obedient and keep working hard; my companion may have naturally followed. If he were disobedient still and my zone leaders talked with him, I could have talked to my mission president if problems continued. Overall, I believe that at the time I perceived an external locus of control; I thought that because my companion was going to be disobedient, I had no choice but to do the same. I became aware of the problems I created, the consequences, and my obligations when I realized an absence of the Spirit from my life and when I found myself unhappy and seeking for more disobedience to make me happy. I was blessed to be able to recognize my situation as such and be in a humble enough state to repent and return to the correct path.
I have been blessed with a gut inclined towards righteous living and instincts to choose the right. I go against that gut feeling because of selfishness or a feeling of entitlement and that I owe something to myself. In this ethical decision my gut, along with my heart and soul, were sending up huge red flags that I should not choose disobedience. At the time I was prideful and felt that I had been obedient for a good time, and deserved some “fun”. It didn’t take long for me to realize the error of my ways, humble myself, and put myself back on the correct path.
Looking back on the situation I see how I went against what was ethically right. At the time I either was not aware or blinded myself to the ethical frameworks that one usually considers when making decisions. I was only considering myself, thinking I was entitled to a little “fun” rather than remembering my values, realizing the consequences of my decision, and recognizing my obligations to the Lord and the Filipino people. I hate that I made the wrong decision, and if I could go back I would change it in a second. By analyzing the situation and the ethical frameworks involved, it has helped me to see how making the obedient decision will be easier for me in the future.