(My sister did not go through the Provo Missionary Training Center, so I provided her with a snapshot of that fine institution.)

Dear Sister Carter,

What can you say about the Missionary Training Center? It’s the one place in the world where you’ll find thousands of clean-cut, suit bedecked 19-year-old boys who will one minute weep vigorously during a Jesus movie, and the next enter a no-holds-barred farting contest. The MTC is the chapel where the natural man and spiritual man are joined in a stormy matrimony.

It was in the MTC that I had my first nude photo taken—an event that occurred in the shower room. I don’t know how things are set up in the female dorms, but in the male dorms, the showers epitomize communality, with neither wall nor curtain separating one bather from the next. We were a flock of Adams flapping through an Eve-less garden of porcelain and tile. Elder C walked in as I was taking an evening shower (in order to avoid the morning rush), hoisted a camera to his eye, and pressed the button. The flash went off as I swung my hips Elvis-style in hopes of obscuring my nether regions behind the shower pillar—though more likely I only added a little more groove to the final product.

Why would Elder C do such a thing? Why would he behave in such an unmissionarily manner? Possibly because earlier that evening, I had walked into his room and snapped a picture while he and his roommates straggled about the room in various states of undress. I thought it was a great joke, as there was no film in my camera, but the joke was evidently lost on Elder C., who always had film in his camera.

The BYU photo lab processed all the film that came from the MTC. What must that job have been like? Did the developers dispose of the doubtless hundreds of lewd photos that flowed from the Mormon monastery, destroying the negatives for good measure? Or did they tack them to a bulletin board for the enjoyment of all? If the latter, how did my snapshot rank? I sometimes wonder if the advent of digital photography will reveal a view of the MTC that had previously been suppressed by the BYU photo development lab.

But we were talking about farts, weren’t we? Sorry to get off track.

I imagine you had much the same culinary experience I did at the MTC. The food was nice enough, but even if it was specifically formulated to produce as little methane as possible, the inescapable fact was, all of us sat for hours on end in a windowless classroom after each meal. The rooms were small enough, and their population large enough, that no fart could go undetected. There were simply too many noses and too little air. So we sat with buttocks clenched in mortal fear of a gaseous outbreak, the trapped miasma boiling into a venomous stew inside our intestines.

Thus, the epic farting contests we conducted after hours. If the Church would let the Guinness Book of World Records into the MTC, Mormonism would have one more accomplishment to be proud of.

Meanwhile, the sister missionaries were doubtless studying the discussions and learning 20 extra vocabulary words.