By Heather O.
*NOTE ON GUESTS POSTS: If you have submitted one, and you haven’t heard from me, I am not ignoring you. Ok, I am, but just for a sec. I’ll get to you, I promise!
INTRO: c jane regularly blogs at cjanerun, except on Wednesday when she blogs for Segullah (see sidebar). She’s done this sort of guest blogging before at largerfamilies.com and Design Mom. Though she is not yet a Mommy, she is a Mormon, and reads about Wars in the Book of Mormon. Also sometimes she watches Star Wars. (But not as often as you would like to think.)
Back in the glory day of Mormon Pop Culture–the same decade when BYU won the National Football Title, someone wrote/produced “The Mormon Rap”, and denim jumpers were all the rage (for the love, please note: they are no longer)–there also existed the quintessential cultural phenomena of The Missionary Farewell.
Decades later, we have been asked to eliminate this tradition of sending off missionaries with decadence and glory. These days, Elders and Sisters (or both at the same time, if they are your grandparents) leave in a more reverent manner, quietly packing their suitcases and wiping silent tears.
Though I understand the wise counsel of abolishing this ritual, I must admit (and I am not afraid to do it) I miss the Missionary Farewell of Old. Just the other day I went to hear a missionary’s Departure Discourse, or whatever we are using as a replacement for ‘farewell’, and someone mistakenly used the F-bomb in the opening prayer. (”We are glad to be hear at Elder Sosa’s Farewell.”) You should have seen how fast the Stake President got up there to stand and correct, “This is NOT a Missionary Farewell”, he explained. But I already knew that, because there were only 2 speakers on the program: Elder Sosa, and someone who wasn’t his mother,father, siblings, grandparents, great grandparents, or soccer coach. Or all of the above. Which would’ve been the case back in my day.
The great thing about the Farewell was its ability to bring together a community. The more in attendence, the more esteemed the missionary. To this end, you’d invite anyone you’d ever known in your whole existence. It was imperative that the entire chapel, overflow, and cultural hall were overflow with your acquaintances (paper boy, gym teacher, mail person…). Thus you would have a real story to tell late at night with your companions in the MTC:
I couldn’t even see the last row of the multitude when I got up. My dad had binoculors, and he couldn’t even see….
And the Stirring Missionary Farewell Musical Numbers! Oh how I miss them! A Departing Missionary’s friends singing “Called to Serve” never failed to impress. Undoubtedly they all sounded like dying cows, but it was all so endearing (tears) (entearing?). And certainly not to brag, but there was a time when my friends and I were asked to perform, “In the Hollow of thy Hand” at a farewell. As the song started, our anchor soprano started out singing a lot louder than the rest of us. Quickly embarrassed, her face went red and she stood there in our semi-circle frozen still. The rest of our ensemble started giggling uncontrollably. It was most miserable. But we must have looked good, because after the meeting we had several offers from perspective missionaries. So we took our show on the road from Provo to…well…Springville.
Another great thing about the Missionary Farewell was skipping the other 2 hours of church entirely. Otherwise you would be late for the Missionary Farewell After Party, more widely known as the Open House. Held in the missionary’s home, and hosted by his mother, the multitude would come to be fed with dazzling foodstuffs like carrot sticks, carrot Jello, and, ultimately, carrot cake. One Open House I attended back in the day served Baked Alaska in honor of the mission call to Anchorage. Have you ever tried Baked Alaska? Fan-TAS-tic!
There is nothing like feeding a house full of hungry Mormons and a couple of stray kids who have static charged hair from the backyard trampoline. But come to think of it, some didn’t even bother to have this event at their house. Knowing that the square footage of their home couldn’t accomodate the barrage of guests, they resorted to parks, rented tents, or, in my in-law’s case, reserved the Grand Ballroom at the local La Quinta Inn in Orem (wherein it is no longer an Open House, rather a Missionary Farewell Reception. Cue the Sparkling Punch Fountain.)
Not to brag again, but when I left for my mission, my friends threw me a Missionary Rager at my family’s cabin, complete with a bar serving Pina Coladas (virgin). A lot of people came. In fact, I was greeting guests when someone said, “Who is this party for?” Which pretty much means your party is rocking, and you’ve got an even better story to tell your companions at the MTC. By the way, we can still have Missionary Ragers, right? I mean, those aren’t discouraged—are they?
But listen to me taking a stroll down memory lane. I wonder what it will be like to be a Mormon Mother without a Farewell Weekend to plan. What will fill the void? Does anybody else remember the Glory Days of which I speak? Am I alone in pining for the delicious chunk of Mormon Times Gone By?
Truthfully, it is imperative that our people remember the past, our forefathers who bravely went before. For this reason, I plead with you to save these Farewell memories for future generations. Because before you know it, we won’t have having monthly Homemaking meetings, Linger Longers, and…Tasty Nursery Snacks.
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