On December 19, 1990 I entered the Missionary Training Center. I had turned my papers in at the end of July, received my call over Labor Day weekend and was called to report to the MTC the week before Christmas (?). I was ready to go - I had made the decision to serve a mission several months before my papers were turned in and the whole process just seemed to take forever!
If you have to be away from your loved ones at Christmas - the MTC is the place to be. Every night there were special devotionals by General Authorities. Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet then, he made a special video presentation that was shown; President Hinckley came, Elder Haight, Elder Nelson and Elder Ballard all came. President Monson came and spent Christmas Eve with us - that was very special. It was the coldest Christmas in Utah history up to that point and he couldn't drive down from Salt Lake because of the ice so they made some arrangements and he left his family home and was actually driven down to Provo in a snow plow.
There were less missionaries than usual because they slow down arrivals towards the end of December (I don't know how I was one of the lucky ones) and they keep sending them out. On Christmas day, Elder L. Tom Perry came with his whole family, there were about 40 of them. The Perry family did a special program around 10:00 a.m. with special musical numbers, talks etc... and then they shook every single missionary hand. They also stayed and ate Christmas dinner with us - which was sack lunches made the day before so the kitchen staff wouldn't have to work on Christmas. I have always loved Elder Perry, not just because he is so smiley and wears bright colored ties and he is so tall, but because he sat at the picnic style tables in the MTC cafeteria with all of us on Christmas.
I can't believe that it was really that long ago - it seems like it was just a few years ago that I was buying Rockport pumps and 25 pairs of Hanes Silk Reflections panty hose. In 1990, the Berlin wall came down, Nelson Mandela was freed and I started doing missionary work for real.