This book presents a superb account by a former Mormon missionary of his journey through, and away from his pressure-filled entanglement with the church. I find it impossible to think of a suitable analogy to describe this complex social and human entrapment experienced by Elder Worthy, entrapment by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (otherwise known as the Mormon Church). (The author refers to himself as Elder Worthy, as that is how others referred to him throughout his mission.)
Beginning with his two-year mission in Hong Kong at the age of nineteen, Elder Worthy takes the reader with him as he experiences the journey first hand. Everything he had been brought to believe told him this would be a wondrous experience. The whole support system of his social environment, as proscribed by the Mormon Church, including his parents and authority figures, all reinforced the idea that this mission would be positive almost beyond imagination. For, how could it not be when the Heavenly Father would be inspiring individuals to hear the Word he was about to bring?
The mission itself was an ordeal--filled with frustrations, embarrassments, and feelings of inadequacy. Elder Worthy blamed all these shortcomings on himself. If only he were more diligent, more worthy, he was sure the Heavenly Father would cause the mission to be the success he had been certain it would be. Many of these frustrations were the direct result of the highly constrained rules and pressure for obedience concerning sexual expression.
As the months wore on, Elder Worthy became disillusioned about the whole mission setup. He started seeing patterns across the other missionaries at his outpost that seemed consistent with his own experience, and saw that it might be the system that led to disappointing performance, not his lack of being sufficiently worthy. The more he became disenchanted with the system, the more he began to press the limits, more or less to see how the system would react. Ultimately, the combination of frustrated sexual desires and the rush that comes with pressing the limits led him to the most serious infraction of the rules. This led to disciplinary action, the premature ending of his mission, and the disgrace to his parents and himself when he returned amongst suspicions he may have done something unworthy. He of course was not invited to give his testimony about the wonders of his mission.
Whether or not a person is familiar with the inner workings of the Mormon Church, I think the reader will gain an excellent understanding of what actually happens on these two-year missions that every 19-20 year old Mormon male experiences. Even more important in my mind is the account of one lonely person's struggle to make sense out of the many contradictions he saw on his mission, compared with all the glowing reports from the missionaries that went before him.