Your Friday Firestorm #24

Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the “repent and go” missionary is over. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, my young brothers?


M. Russell Ballard, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries,” October 2002 General Conference

The bar was raised by the leaders of the Church, and now the minimum standard for participating in missionary work is absolute moral worthiness; physical health and strength; intellectual, social, and emotional development. In every high-jumping competition there is a minimum height at which the competition starts. The high jumper cannot ask to start at a lower height. In the same way, you should not expect the standards to be lowered to allow you to serve a mission. If you want to be a missionary, you must be able to clear the minimum standards.


L. Tom Perry, “Raising the Bar,” October 2007 General Conference

Discuss.

Comments

  1. I am of a mixed opinion on this.

    1. It has raised the “quality” of the elders called
    2. Less are being called
    3. There is a one strike and your out mentality on sexual sins that is a bit troubling.
    4. More YM are going inactive after they come in and try and go on a mission and are told no dice

    I think more independent decision making autonomy needs to be granted to Bishops and SP’s so that they can allow a few more elders to go after issues with the LOC. All within reason of course

  2. Serving as a missionary is a privilege and not a right! I believe the Brethren are absolutely correct in “raising the bar” for missionary service. In fact, I believe the Brethren still haven’t gone far enough! The bar must be raised even higher. There are still slacker missionaries serving out there who are a hinderance to the work. Get rid of them and we’ll have a missionary force the Lord will be pleased with.

  3. There are still slacker missionaries serving out there w

    Yep, and the ratio to slacker members is disturbingly low. I mean, I can only find an entire combined EQ/HPG (we’re a small ward) to not go on splits with the two slackers our ward is assigned. What gives?

  4. Some of the most effective missionaries were those that had to go through the repentance process just to get the chance to serve a mission.

    Sure, better to not have commited the sin in the first place but if the Church is going to exclude potential missionaries from going is there really a belief in repentance?

  5. Last Lemming says:

    I don’t know about the high jumping analogy. When I was high jumping, the opening height was low enough that we had shot-putters who could clear it.

    As for the policy itself, I publicly support it, but I despite Elder Ballard’s assumption, I’m not sure I fully understand what they are talking about. Is it really just the one-strike rule? Or is there more to it, and if so, what? I had no “strikes” against me in 1976, but after hearing some raising-the-bar talks, I have no idea whether I would have qualified to serve under current rules.

  6. There are still slacker missionaries serving out there who are a hindrance to the work. Get rid of them and we’ll have a missionary force the Lord will be pleased with.

    Actually, why don’t we just reject every missionary applicant who has ever sinned in any way? Then the Lord will really love our missionary force and bless its efforts with success.

  7. I swear this counsel came because of the community where I grew up. I can’t even count how many missionaries went home because of unrepentant sins before the missions and during their missions. It was becoming commonplace.

    The bar being rasied was the best thing to ever happen in that community, too (southeast ID, btw). It sent a message that they could no longer “party” in HS and then go on a mission (which was usually just because it was so glamourized).

  8. The mission seems to have become more of a field for growing future leaders of the church, rather than harvesting new members, though of course one typically comes with the other. I would add my two bits that I disagree with the one-strike policy. While the MP doesn’t need to have more people to baby-sit, the young men need to get out there.

  9. I know #2 is in jest, but I would actually support that vs the current plan. Basically, I think that under the current plan, we prevent many young men from going, yet culturally we still expect ALL young men to go. We should either let all but those who are truly lost (for lack of a better word) go, or exclude enough that we don’t culturally expect all to go. Too middle ground.

  10. cantinflas says:

    4. More YM are going inactive after they come in and try and go on a mission and are told no dice.

    I almost think the raising the bar policy might serve to remove the stigma for those who didn’t or might not serve a mission. Sure, some may go inactive, but others who weren’t that jazzed about serving anyway may find it a little easier to stay in the church. It used to seem that at 19 a young man had to decide to either go on a mission or stop going to church. While some may react to a “no dice” by going inactive, at least that isn’t a requirement.

  11. I don’t think the “slacker” missionaries are the same as the “sinner” missionaries. I knew plenty of elders on my mission that had had no great moral sins to overcome before coming on the mission (sins of commission), but committed the more chronic and more subtly erosive sin of general sloth and immaturity (sins of omission). Propelled by the culture of missionary hero-worship, they felt (self) righteous enough just by being in the field and getting letters of praise from their mothers.

    On the other hand, I had a companion who had overcome some fairly challenging demons before his mission, and his having done so gave him an impressive seriousness that made those other missionaries look like sophomoric doofuses.

  12. I am missing the firestorm part of this post… So the leaders of the church decided to slightly raise the requirements for serving a full time mission — whoop-dee-doo. What am I missing?

  13. I am missing the firestorm part of this post… So the leaders of the church decided to slightly raise the requirements for serving a full time mission — whoop-dee-doo. What am I missing?

    I think the controversy is that it used to be every worthy young man should serve a mission, now its every perfect young man should serve a mission.

  14. If you want to have higher quality missionaries, end the mantra of “every worthy male should serve a mission.” Stop telling young women that they should marry an RM or they are settling for less.

  15. a random John says:

    Does anybody remember that the bar was raised in 1992 or 1993 as well? Did it go back down after that for a while?

  16. nasamomdele says:

    Raising the bar is great, especially in Elder Perry’s terms. Elder Ballard has a heavy-handed and one-sided definition of raising the bar that is not actually as heavy-handed as he outlines.

    My wife is a Coordinator at the MTC and there are still missionaries with serious sins that need to be worked out, which they gladly help with in the MTC. However, I hear stories DAILY of new missionaries who don’t have social skills, are illiterate, can’t study, and can’t bear a testimony.

    I had a companion that was so scared to be on a mission, he cried every night. Poor little guy loved being a missionary, but he was freaked out. Those are the biggest issues by the numbers.

    I think Peter LLC makes a wonderful point. Missionaries will reflect the commitment of the members. If members are lax, what do missionaries do? Knock doors? Personally, I believe successful missionary work is a reflection of member missionary work. The bar is raised for everyone.

  17. cj douglass says:

    Under the current “bar”, I would not have qualified to serve a mission. What a shame. I went through a long and painful process of repentance and was well prepared to serve. I was not a slacker. In fact, I appreciated the opportunity even more because of what I had to do to get there. My mission was a irreplaceable life changing experience. Why can’t we say, “those in need of great repentance – DO SO and serve a mission when you are ready.” – which is what bishops should have been counseling all along anyway. Instead we have, “the Lord has forgiven and forgotten but we haven’t”. Why can’t we give these young people the chance to prove themselves fully repentant before we cast them aside?

  18. nasamomdele says:

    # 9

    The reasoning being that if my son doesn’t go, he can’t clear the bar. It is a shame on me and my family.

  19. cj douglass says:

    On the other hand, I had a companion who had overcome some fairly challenging demons before his mission, and his having done so gave him an impressive seriousness that made those other missionaries look like sophomoric doofuses.

    Jeremy,
    were we companions? :) ok, I’ll get off my high horse….

  20. Nick Literski says:

    I was serving as a stake executive secretary when this policy took effect. It was not “one strike and you’re out,” but more like “one strike and you’d better have a significant period of time to prove you’ve really repented.” The policy did, however, rule out those who had engaged in a significant pattern of sexual sin (multiple partners, multiple occurances), over a period of time, even if that was in the past. That much makes complete sense to me. For starters, they don’t need missionaries who have a greater risk, based on prior performance, of creating scandals in the field. Furthermore, the stake president is always free to “argue the case” if he feels that a missionary is truly fit to serve, despite being “ruled out” by the policy.

    What did disturb me about the “raising the bar” policy, however, was the physical requirements. My stake president was given an actual height/weight chart, which was not to be shared publicly. Any potential missionary who’s weight exceeded the chart’s directives was not elligible to serve, unless the stake president could show that the weight was connected with significant athleticism (such as a powerlifter?). The weight limits were not the sort that would only exclude the grotesquely obese, either. The official reasoning was that missionary work is physically demanding, and they didn’t want missionaries called who couldn’t handle the rigors involved.

    I can understand that yes, there are certain young people who are truly so obese that their weight hinders the ability to perform missionary work. Our mission had one of these who was legendary, and was sent home early because of it. It was truly sad, however, to see how this policy affected some young people. I know of at least one young man who was exemplary in his behavior, truly good-hearted, and 17 or 18 years old when the policy was announced. He sought to put in his papers, but could not be recommended, purely due to his weight (think big football player build, not blimp). I moved shortly after, so I don’t know how this affected the young man long-term, but I have to wonder. How would anyone feel to be told, “You’re worthy in every other way, but you’re just too FAT to serve the lord.”

  21. Uh, perhaps part of raising the bar is having missionaries better prepared to teach, hence the emphasis now on “Preach the Gospel” for YM/Priest quorums.

    If some bishops/SP are enforcing a “one strike” rule, I do not believe it is policy church-wide. Moral sins normally require at least a one year waiting period for temple recommends, many other things. Why not for a mission?

    I’d say that the caliber of missionaries I have seen both going out and coming back in our stake has been higher than in the past. Raising the bar is about better testimonies, better scriptural understanding, and better behavior, not just one issue.

  22. KyleM (14) – Excellent point (I’ve also said that if you want young men to get their Duty to God awards along with their Eagle Scout, you need to start having firesides where the YW are counseled to only marry young men who received their Duty to God award.)

    One of my good friends, his son wasn’t worthy to go. However, he straightened out his life and was called as a ward missionary in his ward — and he was very effective. He then met a young woman and they wanted to get married, but her bishop father refused to give his blessing (which caused the young woman to break it off). The father’s comment was “You didn’t serve a mission. You’ll never be of any value to the Church.” And now for the rest of the story — said young woman got pregnant a year later by her RM boyfriend.

    If the new guidelines are that not everyone can serve a mission, then it shouldn’t whether or not you served a mission. My extended family had a lengthy discussion about this a couple of years ago, and I was shocked that the general attitude from some siblings and spouses was, “Of course, not every young man can serve. But no young woman should look to them as a potential husband.”

    Look, I don’t mind raising the bar. That’s a very effective way to achieve more prepared missionaries. But, I agree with bbell’s comment about how many it’s a bit too high and that bishops and stake presidents are being taken out the equation for assessing readiness in some cases. (Is this akin to mandatory sentences that hamper judges?) But remember this, that a lot of screwup boys went on their missions and came home changed men who are now effective leaders.

    The “raising the bar” has also had the unintended consequence (or intended) of reducing the number of young women going into the mission field, as we now put increasingly less importance on sister missionaries. That, I find too bad.

  23. Actually Jared, President Kimball was notable for trying to get every young man on a mission and the policy that he described was:

    Every boy ought to go on a mission. There may be some who can’t, but they ought to go on a mission. Every boy, and many girls, and many couples. (emphasis in original)

  24. nasamomdele says:

    # 11

    This is an interesting point. It begs the question, which of these is what you want in a missionary? A sinner, or a slacker?

    I think a slacker is always a sinner, but a sinner is not always a slacker. I think that is the distinction between the two addresses by Elder Ballard and now by Elder Perry.
    Elder Perry understands the idea of separating the issues from the person. I think after his talk, we should expect the emphasis to fall on preparation for being a socially, physically, mentally, and spiritually capable missionary, rather than simply someone who didn’t screw up.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    I would be very curious to speak to bishops/mission presidents, etc. in place pre-and post- 2002, to see the effects of ‘raising the bar’.

  26. I had a companion that was so scared to be on a mission, he cried every night. Poor little guy loved being a missionary, but he was freaked out.

    nasamomdele, could have have been because of the country and the language itself?

  27. Ardis Parshall says:

    bbell, one aspect of raising the bar this way removes a double standard: Women who violate the law of chastity have always — inside the church and out — suffered from the one strike and you’re out penalty. Now young men, at least those who desire to be missionaries and reap the attendant community rewards, have to be just as chaste as women have always had to be just to remain in the game.

  28. my only concern is that I know way too many awesome missionaries who probably would not have been considered eligable based on the bar-raising guidelines. In the cases of several edlers I personally know, I can’t imagine anyone being better off if they hadn’t served.

    I know there’s a flip side because I also knew plenty of slacker missionaries who were not prepared to be there and didn’t take it seriously. Not that I know the details of all their personal lives, but based upon my own anecdotal experience, I’d say that the assumption that their is a correlation between quality of mission service and whether you were eligable to be on your HS seminary council is probably not very well grounded.

  29. Nick Literski says:

    #22:
    If the new guidelines are that not everyone can serve a mission, then it shouldn’t whether or not you served a mission.

    Thanks for saying this. I meant to mention, and forgot, that when the policy was enacted, my stake president was also told that President Hinckley had said this meant church members needed to do away with the social stigma against young men who don’t serve a full time mission, because there would be those who were entirely worthy in the present, but excluded due to issues which no longer affected their worthiness.

  30. nasamomdele says:

    Q-

    You know, I lived with the guy for 3 months before he was transfered to somebody more “loving” than I, and then transfered again soon after to the mission office. From there he went home early because of clinical depression from missing his mother-honest. He spoke the language fine and when he had the courage, he could communicate well with people. It was a matter of upbringing for his kid. Too much home schooling and piano, I think.

  31. nasamomdele says:

    Q- (26)

    He was definitely more worthy than I to serve a mission.

  32. Steve,

    My tenure as bishop ended in 2002, just as the raising the bar became somewhat of a mantra. Granted, it was at the tale end of my service, but it was discussed mostly as having young men better prepared in their testimonies, in their personal worthiness, and their understanding of the scriptures, and not so much as disqualifying applicants as in trying to help the YM in deacons and teachers quorums get more involved in mission prep. I never saw nor heard of a “height/weight” chart, so I can’t speak to that.

    I will say that one area that goes under-diagnosed is depression. I personally know of several missionaries who struggled with depression that was not diagnosed prior to their missions, but caught up with them on their missions, and resulted in early, honorable releases. Having to deal with a current family member with depression issues, I can see how that could become debilitating as a missionary, and the urgency for getting treatment that may not be available in Northern Suckistan. Health issues need to be considered, including mental health.

    But sorry, if there is a one strike rule out there, it has not been articulated to me.

  33. cj douglass says:

    And now for the rest of the story — said young woman got pregnant a year later by her RM boyfriend.

    You can’t script it better!

  34. bishop in '02 says:

    In our stake it was more of a two strike rule. If a young man had sex once at age 16 and immediately repented, I could probably get him through the process. But if that pattern of behavior had persisted for even as long as two or three weeks, even several years previously, and even if he was completely repentant, he wasn’t qualified. Our SP definitely saw it as something of a weed-out process.

  35. One of my only qualms is how little (public) attention is given to the exemption for those with serious mental illness concerns. As I recall, while Elder Perry emphasized that would-be missionaries must be “mentally” or “emotionally” able to serve, he framed it more in terms of preparedness, and did not point out that certain mental or emotional problems may exempt someone from service. I served with one elder whose depression totally incapacitated him (this was before the bar was raised). He could not even communicate when he was at his worst. And he was an otherwise normal guy, who attended a very prestigious university. But mission life just wasn’t good for him.

    Because the exemption for mental illness is underappreciated, I fear that many people who really aren’t fit for the pressures of missionary work get sent out (of course, I may be wrong). And those that don’t serve are presumed to be unworthy. I know of one young man who suffers from a mental illness. He did not serve a mission, and I know it’s been a social trial for him and his family. People tend to assume the worst when people go. The fact that the few “honorable exemptions” are underappreciated may contribute to this.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    Can someone articulate what the “raising the bar guidelines” are? My impression is that “raising the bar” is mostly rhetoric that has little actual, real world impact on the quality of missionaries, but I am happy to be educated on the subject.

    What I’m particularly interested in is whether there are actual, measurable differences in the standards of accepting missionaries pre- and post-bar raising, and if so, what are the specific qualifications that have change? It’s not at all obvious to me.

  37. Sorry, that second to last sentence should read “People tend to assume the worst when people don’t go on a mission.”

  38. my only concern is that I know way too many awesome missionaries who probably would not have been considered eligable based on the bar-raising guidelines.

    A few people have said things like this in this thread. I don’t know how seriously to take such charges. What exactly are the guidelines people are claiming now require a “perfect young man” (#13) or that only allow for “one strike” (#1 and #8 — though disputed in other comments)?

  39. a random John says:

    Steve M,

    I agree that the mental health issues are huge. My mission president spent much more time dealing with mental health issues (three attempted suicides that I know of) and similar issues that might have been due to mental health or simple immaturity than anything else.

    My wife did a rotation at the psych ward up at the University of Utah hospital. There were several people there that had major mental breakdowns on their missions. Missionary age is right around the time that some mental problems first manifest, but the stress of a mission is seen as a major factor in many of these cases.

  40. It was a matter of upbringing for his kid. Too much home schooling and piano, I think.

    Awesome! I love it! Hahahaha!

  41. I want to flesh out my comments a bit.

    I have been serving in YM’s almost 11 years straight now. My committment to the program and its success is important to me as I have four sons.

    My own view is that the 2 super large measurable goals of the YM program (besides exhaltation christian living etc) is temple marriage and missions.

    The raise the bar program standards involving sexual sins has a tendency to push the YM who in the 70′s-90′s would have repented and gone out and came back to temple marriage and adult activity out of the church.

    I have seen it 5-6 times amongst BIC kids who would have been good elders and good mates. My Father who is a bishop since 04 reports the same problems in his ward.

    I want to retain these young men. So I believe that this policy needs to be softened. I am tired of YM or their parents coming to me and saying that themselves or their kid sees no future for themselves in the church over something they did when they were 17-18

  42. Women who violate the law of chastity have always — inside the church and out — suffered from the one strike and you’re out penalty.

    I don’t buy that for a second.

    I can’t think of the last time the EQ welcomed a new elder’s tales of exploits and conquests of the opposite with high-fives and back slapping. But I can think of just about every preisthood session in the last decade warning men of their practically incorrigible lasciviousness.

  43. “their kid sees no future for themselves in the church over something they did when they were 17-18…”

    That’s because they have jerk-off bishops like those in #22 telling them that they’re no good.

  44. a random John says:

    I’m guessing that part of the motivation for raising the bar is that it will affect behavior. I think that some of the comments on this thread are assuming that kids don’t have the capacity to plan on a mission from about 15 on up and therefore the policy is unfair because it can’t affect behavior.

    I do think that the physical health guidelines should be made public so that kids that are overweight know what they should shoot for. My impression is that a BMI in the upper 30s will disqualify you. I know that this is more an issue for some missions than for others. In my mission there were no cars and no bikes, so you walked, often 15 miles or more a day. We had a few missionaries that were incapable of doing that and that caused difficulties.

    Kevin Barney,

    There are two young men in my ward in the last year that expressed a desire to go on a mission and probably will not be allowed to go. So yes, it is really keeping some kids from serving missions.

  45. Nick (#20),

    I was a marshmallowy 200 lbs., size 40 waist, when I entered the MTC and went down to a Friberg-esque 33 waist by the time I went home. Don’t know if I’d have passed the snuff with the chart you’re talking about, but I can testify that a mission makes for a great diet.

    On a different note, I saw two friends go home short of finishing their missions: One, because he wasn’t able to kick his addiction to porn, and the other because his girlfriend back home was starting to show. All sad stories of exclusion aside, I’d like to know if any stats have yet emerged from the “raising the bar” campaign.

  46. easy there, Tony.

  47. bishop in '02 says:

    Geoff J.,

    Before the change, many bishops and SPs took the attitude that if repentance was sincere and demonstrated over a period of time, the YM was good to go. We were also more willing to err on the side of mercy and hope that the youthful missteps didn’t repeat themselves. In most cases, that hope turned out to be justified. Now, we don’t even have that option. A young man can be fully prepared and fully repentant for several years, but if he had sex after the jr. prom and waited a month or so to confess, he is out of luck.

  48. I’m an active reader but I’ve never commented until today because this is a poignant subject for me. I both served a mission and taught at the MTC for nearly a year, so I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time around the missionary end of things (not the ecclesiastical, I’ve never been a Bishop or Stake President).

    First, I loved all of my companions, I had companions with no testimony, companions with despression, companions with physical challenges. But, the 1-3 companions I had that were mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually excited to be there were night and day. We found more people to teach, we found more committed and prepared people to baptize, the work was completely different. So, I’m interested in sending out more missionaries like that.

    With that said, I agree very much with comment #9. We’re hurting young men by saying, “EVERY man must serve” or “YW, marry ONLY returned missionaries” and in the same breath raise the bar without raising the supports (think No Child Left Behind).

    Second, I’m glad to hear from some bishops commenting that they were given the leeway to argue in behalf of a young man who is ready, but had a spotty past.

    Last, if we want every young man to serve, why don’t we train our YM leaders to get the young men involved with the missionaries, on splits, etc. to help give them the tools and motivation to go.

  49. More YM are going inactive after they come in and try and go on a mission and are told no dice.

    I may sound like a hardliner, but doesn’t that result (if true) support the new standard? As with the temple recommend interview, being told you’re not ready is an opportunity to become ready. It’s a perfect opp to gauge your spiritual health and take steps to strengthen it– as with the boy who wasn’t able to go on a mission and later became an effective ward missionary (despite the bonehead bishop/father’s judgement).

  50. I do think we need to raise the bar in terms of preparation. The issue of transgression aside many of the missionaries I served with were simply not prepared for the field. They did not know how to deal with frustration, loneliness or other emotional issues. They did not know how to prepare a proper meal, using vegetables and fruit. They did not know how to study, or how to bear testimony.

    We have in our ward now, missionaries who are incapable of dealing courteously to the members. Members who sign up to provide dinners are not called to confirm, and are expected to cater to the missionaries whim (um, we couldn’t make it at 6, can you bring us 2 pizzas now – even though it is 9:30).

    I think the health issue is important, but I don’t think it is fair to ambush missionaries. I know of a ym, who on the larger side, went to submit his papers only to find he exceeded the chart. He then had to delay his mission for a year to meet the goal. While we should all be physically fit, having the standard known earlier could have provided an incentive for him to become physically fit earlier.

    The biggest problem we had with physical disabilities is not the overweight, or those who came into the mission with crutches or canes, but those who injured themselves playing basketball or otherwise.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    arJ 44, ok, but what are the specific reasons? Everyone is talking about “raise the bar” as if it’s obvious, and it’s not obvious to me. Why can’t those young men go today but would have been able to go before the change? We’re dancing around this without actually articulating what raise the bar means in actual practice. Did they have sex with their girlfriends, masturbate, didn’t graduate from seminary, exhibited loud laughter in quorum meetings, didn’t memorize their scripture mastery assignments, didn’t get their eagle or duty to God, or what? Can someone put this standard into specifics for me? Or is it just a broad generalization that bishops are suppose to apply however they see fit?

  52. I have mixed feelings about the concept of “raising the bar”

    On one hand, raising the bar helps SP and Bishops make decisions on missionaries going out and serving who want to serve, not just fulfilling a social role

    On the other hand, the thing a lot of people forget is how much growing goes on between the ages of 19-21. With emotional and mental things, that growing could help in overcoming some short comings.

    I think that #22 (the bishop-father) is the feeling and POV that many Church members had – Coming from parents who were converts (yet siblings born in the Church), it was always stressed to the boys to go on a mission (THEN go to the temple, which I don’t agree with).

    Change the way that marring a RM is stressed in YW, continue teaching “Preach my Gospel” in YM, then there might not be such a stigma on someone who didn’t clear the bar

  53. Kevin,

    My own take is that Raise the Bar standards concerning sexual sins are mostly unwritten and passed down thru stake pres leadership training mtg’s and then down to bishops thru the SP’s and counselors.

    Around here and in my fathers stake its a sexual intercourse and your out policy.

    I have seen Bishops walk into YM quorum meetings and say “no sexual intercourse if you want to serve”

  54. a random John says:

    Kevin,

    I’m not going to go into specifics here as I am less anonymous than would be needed. I will say that the other kids in the ward know more or less what the reasons are simply through normal highschool gossip and observation of what crowd a person runs with. This makes it clear to the other kids that there are things you can’t get away with and then go. Now that the policy is a few years old I think it is more effective than when it initially sprung into being. At that time the kids had seen their older peers flaunt the commandments and then go on a mission. Now they don’t see that and I think it registers.

  55. a random John says:

    bbell,

    The policy is not that strict in my stake, but repeated violations of the law of chastity with multiple partners will result in disqualification.

  56. I worry that the “raise the bar” statements will be viewed by some some bishops or SPs as an instruction to reject missionary prospects who admit to masturbation.
    As I don’t view that as necessarily a sin, it’s unlikely my children will. As a result, while they join in on the expectation of going on a mission now, they may get broadsided when they are 19 or 21, with a local lay leader with a different view.

  57. a random John says:

    SA,

    In my experience that is not what is happening.

  58. SA (#56),

    If the Church went that far, I’m not sure that we’d be sending any missionaries out (okay, well, maybe a few). The missionary force would vanish before our eyes.

  59. “Would you rather have a sinner or a slacker for a missionary?”

    Ok, as an adult convert, going through several sets of missionaries with both my husband and I taking the discussions and being baptized years apart, I’ll take the repentant sinner over the slacker ANY day.

    As adult converts, neither my husband nor I came to the table with clean slates- and we are both upstanding members now, who plan on someday (far away) serving a couples mission- if we told the bishop our laundry from when we were 18-20 years old, we would be excommunicated.

    My point is, sometimes- no, often- the truly repentant are the ones who understand the mercy of and love of the Lord more fully. They might be more likely to exhibit compassion and lack of judgement- both things Christ demands of us.

  60. Chuck McKinnon says:

    I know one side effect of ‘raise the bar’ has occasionally been missionaries who are a little too full of themselves, vis à vis their predecessors. Some few of them seem to think that because the bar has been raised, no previous missionaries would have been able to clear the same bar.

  61. Chuck McKinnon says:

    Tracy, both as a convert and as a missionary I agree with you 100%: give me the repentant sinner over the slacker any day.

  62. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for helping to clear that up for me, guys. I’m not in the YM program anymore and so I’m not really close to what this has actually meant in practical terms on the ground.

  63. Boy could they have increased the social stigma of young men who DON’T go on a mission?

  64. Alma the Younger would not have gone on any mission by today’s standards.

    Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni would not have been able to go on a mission. Pity. All those Lamanites whose souls they helped save would have just gone to hell.

  65. like #48, i’m an active long-time lurker breaking my lurking streak for the first time because this is a subject i too hold close to my hearts.

    my own mission was the most difficult time of my entire life. i had neither the social skills nor the maturity to be serving as a missionary. i spent much of it in counselling for depression and serving in the mission office because i was so terrified to even step foot outside my door. was i a good or effective missionary? absolutely not. my mission president offered several times to send me home with an honorable medical release, but i always refused because i couldn’t stand the idea of coming home early and facing the LDS social and cultural stigma of an early release. so i suffered and stumbled through it.

    raising the bar is a fine idea in principle. who can argue with wanting to have the finest representatives of Christ? but i feel for the young men (and women) who are rejected and have to face the membership who all too often immediately and permanently label them as failures.

  66. I know one side effect of ‘raise the bar’ has occasionally been missionaries who are a little too full of themselves, vis à vis their predecessors. Some few of them seem to think that because the bar has been raised, no previous missionaries would have been able to clear the same bar.

    Haha, I’ve noticed a similar trend re: the transition from the old discussions to Preach My Gospel. I hear members and missionaries saying things like, “Now that the missionaries teach by the Spirit…”

    They sometimes seem to have this idea that under the memorized discussions regime missionaries just spat out discussions verbatim, with little or no personalization. At least in my mission, the discussions were only a general outline of the material we were to cover. Once a missionary got a decent grasp on the language, he or she usually abandoned the language of the discussions and tried to convey the message in his or her own words. The emphasis was very much on “teaching by the Spirit.”

  67. Tracy M. Well said. If all of my companions who had checkered pasts were excluded, some very fine missionaries would not have served.

    Results speak for themselves. Since the new policy has been instituted, the number of convert baptisms is way down, the number of baptisms per missionary is way down, and the number of missionaries serving is way down. Results don’t lie. The new policy is a disaster from that perspective.

  68. Much of the “raising the bar” discussion seems to focus on worthiness, and rightly so. However, there also needs to be more emphasis on helping those with mental, emotional, and physical difficulties. I have had a host of mental, emotional, and social challenges for most of my life. I “cleared the bar” and went on a mission, but I wasn’t really able to serve a mission. I was one of those “problem elders” who had to be babysat by companions, other missionaries, and the mission president on a more or less constant basis. I knew that I didn’t fit in with the program and spent most of my time feeling depressed, being anxious, reading, and generally making life hell for myself and those around me because I didn’t have the stability required to do the work. I can only imagine how many potential investigators I drove away simply because I was such a basket case. It was only a few months ago, when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, that I began to put my life together and learn how to cope with the side effects. There is little doubt that nowadays I would even be recommended for a mission. (The papers that prospective missionaries fill out contain questions about nearly every condition imaginable, including Asperger’s Syndrome.)

    If we don’t want unqualified missionaries crawling under the bar on the one hand, or being told on the cusp of turning 19, “sorry, you can’t go after all” on the other, then we have to begin at a younger age to take note of their circumstances and work with them with a longer-term view. My own son is also Asperger with many of the same challenges I have had, and we are assuming that he may well end up doing a service mission as opposed to a full-time mission. Considering that he has trouble just dealing with Blazer Scouts for an hour or two each week, how do we imagine he would handle a full-time mission? This is not to completely rule out a “traditional” mission for him and others in his circumstances, but he does need close monitoring and nurturing well before he turns 19–and to know that a full-time mission is not the measure of his creation.

  69. Kevin Barney, #51: “We’re dancing around this without actually articulating what raise the bar means in actual practice.” My dad was bishop from ’01 to ’06. There were very few strict guidelines given to him from SLC; he got a few more from his Stake President; my dad implemented some of his own. So, unless things have changed, you are right when you say, “…bishops are suppose to apply however they see fit.”

    As for how this played out, my dad used this as a chance to get young men thinking about a mission much earlier. He had annual and then semi-annual meetings with the YM to discuss the requirements, their progress, etc. I know I would have benefited from that—for me, a mission was just something you did after one semester of BYU.

  70. Who?, #67: Results speak for themselves.

    If you have the numbers, I’d be interested in seeing them (without going through conference reports myself).

  71. I thought I would offer an example of how the “raising of the bar” is translated on a ward basis, although I don’t know if this is true for every ward.

    I have two brothers with similar large tattoos.

    One brother left on his mission BEFORE the “raising of the bar” and had no problems with the Bishop/Stake Pres. in regards to his tattoos.

    The other brother left on his mission AFTER the “raising of the bar” and had tons of problems because of his tattoos—so much so, that he had to delay leaving because the Bishop had to take pictures of his tattoos and send to Salt Lake to be viewed.

    Waiting for approval almost killed him (and my parents) and there were many times that he was just going to throw in the towel and walk away.

  72. fwiw, as someone who has been involved in these decisions ever since the announcement was made, all those who have not been involved in the actual person-by-person decisions (or personally have not been in a ward or stake where there is an obviously over-zealous leader) need to chill a bit. Frankly, Dan, #64 was WAY over the top in 99% of our wards and stakes, imo. I’m positive the standard is being enforced incorrectly in too many instances, but I personally don’t know of any bishops and stake presidents who fit that mold.

    My observations in my area:

    1) I know of no bishop or stake president in our area who follows a “one-strike-and-you-are-out” policy. It is a pattern (multiple partners and/or occurrences after confession) that does and should disqualify someone automatically.

    2) It has had a *tremendous* impact in many wards I have visited on the preparation and focus in YM. Specifically, it has increased greatly our YM’s involvement with the missionaries. It hasn’t had as great an impact on our YW’s programs, since the overall issue was not as acute with our YW as it was with our YM.

    3) I can count on one hand the number of missionaries in our mission over the past 2-3 years who obviously should not have been serving a mission and/or caused serious problems in the mission. (less than 1%) Before the announcement, that number would have been perhaps as high as 10% – which had massive implications of which most members simply aren’t aware.

    4) There still are some who slip through the cracks, and there are some who don’t serve who probably would make good missionaries, but overall the quality and spirit of the missionaries I have seen is much higher than a few years ago.

    5) There are *far* fewer disciplinary issues in our mission now than before.

    There are more, but the legitimate problems that have been mentioned here are NOT problems with the announcement itself. Rather, they are problems with interpretation and implementation on the local level. That point needs to be made.

    In conclusion, I just want to reiterate that this is a mental/intellectual exercise for someone who has not had to deal with the consequences of the past laxness in qualification. If you have been involved more intimately in the process for many potential and serving missionaries, I think you would understand a bit more and be willing to cut the new standard some slack.

  73. I hate to posit this, but could “raising the bar” be in response to declining numbers of missionaries rather than the cause of declining numbers of missionaries?

  74. “The Missionary Department requires that missionaries have a body mass index no higher than 37. This is actually on the border between obesity and morbid obesity.”–Donald B. Doty, M.D., Chairman, Missionary Department Health Services, “Missionary Health Preparation,”Ensign, March 2007.

  75. Any idea on how this affects converts who wish to serve missions? Or does this only apply to those who were “in the know” about gospel standards during their years of youthful angst?

  76. A relative who is a stake president was experiencing several of the missionaries he sent out coming home early because it was hard work and not all that fun. He felt the problem was lack of experience doing work, so now he requires prospective missionaries who come to him and haven’t done significant work to get a job for a few months first. This approach is probably related to a story I’ve heard him tell a few times about his own mission; he had a lazy senior companion who he would drag out of bed, telling him “I’m not paying to sit around this room all day.”

  77. KyleM (#73):

    During a regional conference, Elder Tingey told us that due to the trend of smaller families, there are fewer young men in the church than there were even a decade ago.

  78. Ray said it all better than I could.

    I did like the video, though.

  79. Ray, # 72,

    I think you are right. The issue is working with these boys as teachers and deacons, so that they avoid the problems of age 17 & 18. AS I have also indicated, the raising of the bar was NOT just regarding sexual sin, but an overall desire to better prepare missionaries.

    My experience has been that I’ve seen better missionaries, both serving in our ward, and in returning as they report to the HC.

    I will only say that I have a huge concern for the YM who don’t go on missions, and how they are treated in the church. We have significant problems out there with single men and single women between the ages of 19 and 30. We can’t find them,so we can’t minister to them. They are mobile, and don’t always want to be found. And if they have not served missions, what are they to do with themselves in regards to the church? That’s a serious question that probably deserves it’s own thread.

    I don’t view the raising of the bar as a problem, unless overzealously applied by a rogue bishop/SP or two. But I don’t see much evidence of that. It can happen, of course, but I’ve not seen it myself.

  80. Who? #67: Results don’t lie. The new policy is a disaster from that perspective.

    I assume that the trends you mention are accurate, but I don’t automatically assume that this policy is the cause, other than causing the decrease in missionaries. What about the effect of the Church’s focus on true conversion and retention? What about the effect of the internet? There are many other reasons that baptism rates may have declined.

  81. Another note, I have it from reliable sources as well as first hand anecdotal evidence that the number of missionaries being sent home from the MTC with honorable discharges, not for reasons of personal worthiness or physical health but because of anxiety/depression, has risen sharply in the last 5 – 10 years.

    I can’t say with certainty whether or not this is true. I have two good friends who were sent home because of the severe anxiety they experienced at the MTC. They both received counseling, one was put on medication, the other was not. Both were told that they had served honorable missions by the missionary department, and both were told they would have the option of returning to the field should they choose so. Neither have returned or will returned.

    One of the two told me that the psychotherapist he saw, who worked for the missionary department, said that 1 in 6 young men who enters the MTC gets sent home. That seems a bit large, but that is what he was told. I know I had a tortuously difficult time during my first month at the MTC. Crippling anxiety and depression, sleeplessness, loss of appetite. I spent a lot of time talking with my BP trying to get control of my emotional well-being. I was never referred to a counselor or therapist. Based upon discussions with both of my friends, I’m convinced that I would have been sent home if the same forces were in play when I left as when they did, a mere five years later. I may be wrong; it may just be that I had an exceptional BP (he was exceptional — one of the greatest men I ever knew). But the thought of having my mission experience taken away (even though there were times when I did want to throw in the towel) is terrifying.

  82. Re: #79

    I am waiting (and will probably be waiting for a while) to hear the General Conference talk about how not serving a mission doesn’t make you a bad person

    I hope (and might probably be still hoping) that becoming a missionary will be something that isn’t a “rite of passage” (as how I remember it being) but more of a privledge – and there’s probably many out there who consider it so…

    that being said, I await that General Conference talk becuase I’m sure some YSA/SA males who didn’t serve a mission probably feel inadequate, or, when it comes up around females, are ostracized because they didn’t serve…

    I don’t think its a sin not to serve – is it the right thing to do? If you are so inclined. I would sleep much better knowing less missionaries were in the field who REALLY wanted to be there rather than more who were doing it “because everyone else was doing it”

  83. Re: #81

    Perhaps it’s my stubborn nature, but I went through those feelings that you did as well – I guess it was me toughening up

    I hated the thought of comparing the missionary force to “God’s Army.” But I don’t think it’s too far off to compare the MTC to a Boot Camp

    You are being broken down and drilled into to be the best missionary possible – be that through language training, the strict strict regimine, and the talks which portray the unsuccessful missionary as one who doesn’t stop every single person on the street to give the message.

    It’s preparation for life in the mission field

    I had an experience similar to yours, talking to my BP and what not, but like you, the mention of a counselor never came up – perhaps this is another weeding out of missionaries?

  84. I am loathe to think of it as a weeding out, since both of the young men in my examples were otherwise totally worthy of missionary service and would have been outstanding missionaries. And I don’t mean that in the “we’re all wonderful” kumbaya sense. Neither of them is reading this and they would have both been absolutely fantastic, the stuff of legends.

    If struggling through the MTC experience is seen as a sign of some deeper problem, then they really blew it with these two. If, on the other hand, such struggles are seen as reasons in themselves for keeping missionaries home, then this is the beginning of the end for the missionary program.

  85. To amplify on #82 and the problem of stigma resulting from not serving. Is there any stigma for young women who don’t serve a mission? If not, then the stigma for young men not serving may not disappear until a mission is no longer expected of them. Now if some young women experience stigma anyway, then perhaps the problem lies elsewhere, but it seems to me this is the root cause. Was Pres. Kimball the first to say “ought to?” Were there other leaders before him? Has it turned from something desirable to something required because that’s how we read it? What if it were just as optional for young men as young women? Would the numbers really decline? Would the quality change?

  86. Who?:

    Given the Church’s abysmal retention figures in my mission (pre bar-raising), the term “convert baptism” was most likely something of an oxymoron in a majority of cases.

    I don’t particularly care if the number of baptisms goes down, as long as retention goes up and the net “souls-saved” number increases.

  87. Another thought:

    Are priesthood holders responsible for the sins of their generation, or are they not?

    If they are, then to what degree does a mission assist them in fulfilling this responsibility?

  88. Just deleted what could have been perceived as inflammatory, but let me just say that we do need to help our YW understand that being an RM is not a standard of worthiness to be a good husband and father. It can help, but suffice it to say that I’ve seen similar stories about families not wanting their daughter to marry an otherwise temple worthy young man because he had not served a mission.

    As an adult who did not serve myself, I can only say that my wife, who had known me since junior high, didn’t think marrying me was a risk, and it’s worked out well. But since the bar has been raised, and many other issues are in play, we need to be extra careful not to stigmatize these folks.

  89. I agree with Ray (#72). I am heavily involved in the process of preparing and calling missionaries in the SouthEastern US, and have reached the same conclusions he has.

  90. The stigma issue is tricky. I really, really, really want my sons to know that I want them to serve missions. I don’t want them to think that I think it’s just a choice where each option is fine and dandy. I also want them to know that if they decide not to go I will not love them less, or think less of them, or reject them in any way. Walking that line between helpful encouragement / strengthening and undue pressure / unrealistic expectation is a tortuous task for those who truly do believe that a mission can change a life but who also respect true agency.

    I wish sometimes it was an easy process, but then I realize it wouldn’t be worth much in that case.

    Also, I am torn on this issue in another way. I believe the biggest failure of the lay church is its preparation of boys to be young men and young men to be men. I want deeply for our YM to understand and feel the weight of their Aaronic Priesthood duties – to take them seriously – to run their own quorums – to actually teach and expound and watch over – to lead more than they now do. Otoh, I don’t want to overwhelm them with unrealistic expectations – and I have seen the results of such expectations on too many. I haven’t reached an understanding yet of how to create that balance (and then how to teach others to create it), but I’m trying.

  91. My son will turn 19 in a few months. He is a social, happy kid with a testimony and a good knowledge of the gospel. Last year he had sex a few times with his girlfriend, then went in and confessed to the bishop. He has gone through the repentence process and will be able to go on his mission this summer. Had he been told “no dice”, it would have been devastating for him and would have changed the whole course of his life. I am so grateful for a bishop that allowed repentence to factor in.

    I think raising the bar is a good thing and has helped boys to better prepare. The problem arises when bishops are hard-liners and don’t look at the boys on a case-by-case basis, depending on their repentence and actions.

  92. #89 – Joe, are you in Alabama by any chance? Longshot, I know, but . . .

  93. So, basically if my 16 year old son comes to me and tells me he had sex with his girlfriend 3 months ago . . . I’m going to tell him not to tell the bishop so he can serve a mission?

    D&C 58:
    42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
    43 By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.

    Who the hell are we to tell a kid that his repentance is good enough for the Lord but not for missionary service? The fact that they confess the sin shows the start of TRUE repentance. How unbelievably arrogant of us to tell our young men that the atonement isn’t a complete fix for mistakes. It IS a complete fix.

    You can not keep people from making mistakes . . that was the other guys plan. In my opinion the church should say to the leaders “Make sure that TRUE repentance has taken place before you send us a potential missionary.”

  94. Ray 72, Joe 89,

    I agree that raise the bar has led to better prepared and that missions operate better with the better prepared missionaries. I have the war wounds from my mission from dealing the the problem elders to prove it.

    My concern is with the casualties that the new policy creates. In effect it says to the 19 year old and his family that despite a sincere desire to serve and sincere repentance that they are found not worthy even if they are eligible for a TR and are actively engaged in the church. I personally would favor a year period were the YM meets regularly with PH Leaders and goes on splits with the elders and perhaps helps serve in primary or other such calling and saves up some money for mission expenses.

    Instead they usually simply stop attending. I want to retain these YM…….

  95. #91 – That sounds like a leader who knows what he’s doing. .

  96. I have real mixed feeling about this policy. Growing up in the 80s in SE Idaho, I certainly thought the vast numbers of boys going on missions the day after their last keggar was completely out of line and ridiculous. However…

    My own husband would not have been allowed to serve under the current policy, neither would our current Bishop or the Bishop of the adjacent ward. We discussed this issue recently when we were all out to dinner together – they all commented that as Bishops (And as a former Bishop in my husbands case) that they felt that this policy is hurting the future leadership of the church in ways that might not be immediately apparent. They all felt that having experienced trials, and yes, even a degree of ‘sin’, that it is easier for them to help people in their wards through the repentance process.

    In terms of activity levels – we are seeing the young men in our wards drop out of activity almost upon their 18th birthdays when they feel that they will not be worthy to serve missions for various reasons. They just disappear. They don’t fit in with the Elder’s in EQ and they don’t fit with the boys who are worthy to go on their missions. I’m convinced many of these boys really would like to go (in fact, in a couple of cases I know this is true) but they feel completely outside of the fellowship of the church. Going on a mission was something they planned on since they were young, even though at some point they’ve messed up and made a mistake. The policy in our stake is pretty specific. My husband was told by the SP that this was the guideline from Salt Lake:

    Masturbation – none for 6 months, Sexual intercourse or other serious sexual sin – 1 time occurance requires a 1 year wait – more than 1 time occurance requires a 2 year wait. Any boy who has had sex more than once and with more than one girl – No dice. No amount of time will solve that problem. If you had one girlfriend and it happened more than once, you have to wait 2 years. Other minor sexual sins like petting – 6, 9 or 12 months wait at the discretion of the Bishop and SP.

    It seems that we did have a big problem with boys who had no business going on missions before but we need to fix a lot of new problems now, and I’m not sure which is worse.

    And I am sorry, but I do not think the newer missionaries are more effective or better. If anything there seems to be a higher percentage of shy, backward and socially awkward kids coming through the ranks. It is rare when we see a missionary with a dynamic personality and ability to really teach the gospel. That did not use to be the case at all. I can’t help but think there is a correlation between those who find it easy to enter a mission due to their lack of sins and those who might not have had any opportunity to commit a sin.

    We have had two boys who had to go on drastic diets to be allowed to go, due to the BMI requirements. Both of these boys were very athletic football players.

    In addition, we have also been told that no YM can serve who have been on antidepressants for any reason in the past 1 year and that any usage prior to that time frame will be looked at on a case by case basis. A friends child was denied being able to go because he had been depressed his Sophomore year of high school and was on antidepressants for 6 months.

    I just think a lot of these decisions are doing more harm than good.

  97. Ray (#89), I am in NC, sorry.
    #91 – Your experience is the common experience. Kids who mess up but really put things behind them can go. In my time in Church leadership, I have found no Church rule or policy to be “hard line”, with only very few very well document exceptions.

    Bishops and SCs have a lot of discretion in this and the influence of the Spirit really guides them.

  98. Raising the bar on worthiness issues may have resulted in “fewer” missionaries being called.

    Raising the bar on fitness issues might have resulted in “less” missionary being called.

    A new height-weight chart was just sent out. I didn’t compare it to the old one to see if there were any changes, but you’d have to be well on the way to morbid obesity to hit those numbers.

    The charts do come with instructions that they’re not to be posted, but there’s no reason to keep them secret from a young man approaching missionary age. If a bishop did that, he would be missing the point.

    And, the issue isn’t that the kid is too big. It is that someone of that size likely will not have the physical stamina to work–and since that size at that age suggests a sickeningly sedentary life, there’s every reason to believe that such a person couldn’t hack it. If a bishop told a kid he was too fat to serve the Lord, he’d just be feeding a myth for the benefit of some who want to critize the Church. My guess is that the bishop who told a kid that exists only in that myth.

    Again, the guidelines specifically permit people to be called who miss the numbers but have a history of vigorous physical activity.

    So, it’s not “fatness”–it’s size as a marker for activity and fitness and general physical health.

  99. And, the issue isn’t that the kid is too big. It is that someone of that size likely will not have the physical stamina to work–and since that size at that age suggests a sickeningly sedentary life, there’s every reason to believe that such a person couldn’t hack it. If a bishop told a kid he was too fat to serve the Lord, he’d just be feeding a myth for the benefit of some who want to critize the Church. My guess is that the bishop who told a kid that exists only in that myth.

    Again, the guidelines specifically permit people to be called who miss the numbers but have a history of vigorous physical activity.

    So, it’s not “fatness”–it’s size as a marker for activity and fitness and general physical health.

    But we had a situation with one of the football players where our SP decided he was an exception to the guidelines and then Salt Lake said “no dice” he has to loose weight and they re-submit his papers. So he went on a very drastic, nearing anorexic, diet. Everyone was so proud of him for starving himself into the guidelines and I just thought that was so wrong-headed.

  100. These specific guidelines do not come from SLC — or at least, if they do, they don’t make it this far. When the bishop was away last spring, I did the paperwork for 2 missionaries, and my request for guidance earned me a phone call from an area authority. He made it clear that there were no set guidelines, but that repentance needed to be independent of the process of going on a mission. If there were sins that needed clearing up, that process needed to happen before the mission issues were directly addressed. I think this makes sense.

    Oddly, the percentage of active YM serving missions in our stake has gone up from 30% ten years ago to 50% in the last ten years.

  101. I can’t help but think there is a correlation between those who find it easy to enter a mission due to their lack of sins and those who might not have had any opportunity to commit a sin.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just rubbish.

  102. Kevin Barney says:

    I went in the late 70s, long before any talk of bar raising. I went because it was expected of me, because I had always assumed I would go and never really questioned it. But I have to admit that part of the motivation was the chilling thought that no (LDS) girl would ever want to marry me if I didn’t go. Getting married at BYU as an RM was as easy as falling off a log, but if I hadn’t gone and faced serious rejection on that account, I think I would have found it almost impossible to remain actively engaged in church.

  103. Norbert, really? It would seem to me that of those people without major sins, there are two kinds: those who have refrained, and those who never encountered the situation at all. For the average nerdy guy in high school, the prospect of violating the law of chastity is one of those temptations you want but never get.

  104. The idea of repenting in order to serve in a particular position, and forsaking discipleship altogether if serving in that position is not allowed, is a disordered concept.

  105. RE: 101, 103,
    I could probably be counted among the latter of Steve’s typology. I didn’t mess around morally with girls in JH/HS, but I didn’t exactly have the opportunity to. Carrying on a coherent conversation with an attractive member of the opposite sex was the extent of my male conquesting. Not sure if I’d have remained chaste given the opportunity. Not sure how any teenage boys who have the opportunity remain chaste, quite frankly.
    That’s not cynicism.
    It may be projection. ;)

  106. For the ration of baptisms to missionary try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ratio_of_Converts_Baptized_to_Full-Time_Missionaries_1971-2006.jpg The all-time low for baptisms per missionary was late 2005, after the new policy had taken effect. If missionaries are better prepared, the numbers should go up, not down. If the policy were working, there would be some indication in the results. It hasn’t had the effect sought and it has had a negative correlation to success per missionary. The number of missionaries has gone down fairly sharply as well for a real significant drop in convert baptisms.

  107. 103 – Amen. But not from personal experience. . . Ok. It is from personal experience. Just lied. Dang it!

  108. Jacob, I don’t think it’s a particularly unique experience for mormon teenagers. Most of us probably didn’t violate the LoC, but it wasn’t for lack of trying!

  109. 106 – Or maybe the numbers have gone down because us members are doing a crappy job of helping our missionaries. Somebody else earlier mentioned that there could be other factors involved.

  110. yes — see #3.

  111. I would have married a non-RM. Oh wait, I did marry a non-RM! I agree that the “marry an RM” stuff should go by the wayside. I did get dumped by a guy in part because I wasn’t an RM, actually (though there were other serious issues in our relationship and I’m rather happy he ended up with his RM wife instead of me).

    My brother wasn’t allowed to serve a mission because he came out of the closet in high school. Subsequently, he tried dating girls, joined evergreen (? I think that’s what it’s called), and tried to become straight, I think in part to get ready for a mission. He was told “no-dice,” though the reason given was his mental instability (depression is pretty common in my family, and I believe my brother has suffered from depression in the past). I’m not sure it was the wrong decision for my brother, or rather for the companions he inevitably would have clashed with or tempted, but the refusal did impact his activity. He sort of oscillates between activity and inactivity and between trying to be interested in girls and just being interested in boys (though I think he’s pretty much settled on boys).

    I know there’s probably no way to avoid hurting people when such a major rejection is handed down, but I absolutely agree putting so much social emphasis on the mission only serves to ostracize those who fall short of the ideal. At the same time, there probably wouldn’t be nearly as many missionaries without the social pressure, especially the dating/marriage pressure.

  112. re: 101 etc.

    Same goes for nerdy girls.

  113. Kristine N, that’s why the nerdy guys and nerdy girls are not allowed to communicate with each other.

  114. Antonio Parr says:

    The “raising of the bar” has cost us more souls than we have gained. The stigma of not serving a mission is so profound (i.e., we tell our young women to only marry returned missionaries, which leaves those who are refused the opportunity to serve with noone to marry), that those who wish to set their lives right are given so many obstacles to overcome that most simply fall into activity. So it is one step up, two steps back when it comes to winning souls to Christ.

    I have a non-LDS family member who, when told of the Church’s policy with respect to raising the bar, asked if the Church has ever considered whether those who have fallen short but then been made whole by the atonement might have something to offer to those potential Mormons who have not lived sinless lives. I did not have a good answer for her.

    Good thing Alma the younger and Paul the apostle were born when they were. Otherwise, we would have told them that there is no place for them in the kingdom.

  115. Except over the internet.

  116. Who?,
    That may be the case; certainly, if the aimed-for end result is maximizing convert baptisms, 2005 wasn’t a good year. But the changes in numbers could also result from, for example, a new baptismal requirement that potential converts attend church at least 3 times before they’re baptized. If it becomes harder to get baptized, and, concurrently, retention becomes better, there is more success. That is, if retention were 25% in 1990 (with 8 baptisms per missionary) and 50% in 2005 (with 4.5 baptisms per missionary), there would be 2 active members resulting from a 1990 missionary, whereas there would be 2.25 active members resulting from a 2005 missionary.

    Note that I’m not saying this is the case; I’m just saying the raw number of converts per missionary don’t tell us a whole lot about the success of the missionary program, unless our end-goal is getting people into the water, and we’re not concerned about what happens after that. And that certainly wasn’t the end-goal I learned about or taught about in the MTC 13 or 14 years ago; I can’t imagine it has become so since thenn

  117. 113, 115
    laughing-out-loud-hysterically

  118. I agree that a lack of mojo doesn’t keep some of us holier than otherwise. But to say that missionaries are a bunch of losers because they weren’t cool enough to get laid in high school? Sounds like an argument my pothead ninth graders would make.

    I also really really disapprove of the measurement of missionary effectiveness with baptism statistics.

  119. Not all, Norbert. Just most.

  120. a random John says:

    hmmm… I think that there might really be something to the idea that those that have violated the law of chastity prior to serving missions might be more likely to have the social skills needed to be a good missionary. Maybe we should have two limits:
    1. You have to have had the opportunity to break the law of chastity with another person.
    2. You have to have not broken the law of chastity.

    Then we’d have what, 10 missionaries out at any given time?

  121. anon and bbell: Thank you for your direct comments about repentence being in the “eye” of the authority.

    I have several sons. The most recent is now serving in South America. He is only doing it because of his supreme force of character. I fear it is almost out of spite after what he has been through (but that’s probably just me projecting my own thoughts).

    He did have a sexual encounter when he was 16. He confessed within that year and then began on the repentance process. He is now 22 and has been out for only 6 months. That means it took over 4 years for him to repent, according to the SP.

    That’s 20 percent of his life!! – during which he was forbidden from associating with girls at all. During what would be his socially forming years, he had to become a hermit, never allowed to date like all guys, function as a priesthood holder, etc. It was an amazing cost. To top it off, every 6 months a new “deadline” was put forth as a carrot, only to be removed when the time limit came. He was allowed to attend BYU, so there wasn’t an ongoing issue, only that “the bar had been raised”.

    From reading your comments, it appears that this really comes down to the local authorities. And that is where I am learning to draw the line. I will not give in to that anymore! I will take responsibility for my own spirituality and not hand that over to nyone else, including Church “authorities”.

    Christ’s atonement was a free gift to all men. He did not put worthiness clauses into it. Yet many local authorities retain the right to do so. Have we truly lost the nature of the Gospel?

    The happy end is that my son is doing well. The sad truth is that neither I nor my wife will ever be the same – then again, maybe having one’s eyes opened is not so bad – after all, it led me here.

  122. The back and forth about nerds and not violating the law of chastity reminds me of something I heard a preacher say recently, “If you ain’t tempted by it, its what you testify about!”

  123. Nick Literski says:

    #98:
    If a bishop told a kid he was too fat to serve the Lord, he’d just be feeding a myth for the benefit of some who want to critize the Church. My guess is that the bishop who told a kid that exists only in that myth.

    I assume you are referring to my comment on the subject. If you go back and read what I said, you will find that in no way did I claim that any bishop had said those words to a prospective missionary. Nor was the comment a criticism of the LDS church. My comment was purely an expression of concern for young people who were worthy to serve a mission, but would be refused based on their weight. While I understand from your comment that you find such young people “sickening,” they are just as important as any other young people in the LDS church, and this sort of rejection can have lifelong (and from an LDS point of view, even eternal) consequences.

  124. For a people that are supposed to be led by the Spirit it seems we have a lot of rules, some with little lattitude in the consequences of breaking them.

    For what it’s worth here’s my 2 cents. We’re here on mortal probation and we’re going to make mistakes. It was expected and a Savior was provided. Some mistakes are normal and a part of the growing process. I think we can all agree on that. A very hormonal young man and young woman alone on a dark night are pretty close to a “normal” mistake. That’s not to condone it, but just to state the facts. Dating guidelines surely have their place. Sincere repentance is just that: Repentance. Altho the Lord forgives and forgets, apparently the church has a little harder time doing so. The problem with repentance as perceieved by many is its very accessability. There is a tendency to say, “Well, I can always repent later (have my cake and eat it too)”. That’s the part I think raising the bar is rying to curb. While it’s true you can repent, it’s just so much harder to truly repent than we think until we’re in that situation. But for those who truly do, send ‘em off. They’re more mature, more tried, and ready to be there. There’s something to be said for the refiner’s fire.

    We had a young man in our stake father a child out of wedlock about the time Elder Ballard gave his talk. I believe he was seventeen at the time. They didn’t get married and the mother kept the baby. At nineteen he put in his papers. He was denied. He tried again six months later. He was denied again. His mom got involved, wrote the Missionary Department and a couple of General Authorities. His stake president got a call and after some discussion was directed to interview the young man again. The young man received a call and served and honorable mission. Upon his release he married in the temple and is currently his ward’s EQP.

    I know we expect our missionaries to be worthy, and they should be, but if they go through the process and are sincere, ship ‘em off. A few bad apples may make it through, but so much more will be gained.

  125. I should add that the official policy for those who are “worthy but unable” to serve a standard full-time mission explicitly includes the option of serving a local mission as a distinct assignment. If local leaders are properly aware of and following the actual guidelines, there is no reason a worthy young man or woman could not serve a mission. If any member who is truly repentant and otherwise qualified to serve a mission is not allowed to serve a mission, the failure is at the local level – not in the new standard.

    As to the other deep discussion in this thread, some of us had every opportunity but abstained out of conviction. I dare say that group is MUCH larger than the “would have if they could have” crowd. ‘-)

  126. Kevin K,

    I would classify that as a remarkable abuse of discretion and an example of why there should be a system of canon law in the Church.

  127. Hit the wrong key. Oh, well.

  128. Kevin K, I can’t tell you how much I respect and admire both your son and you (and your wife). I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, but I am glad you made it here.

  129. D&C 4:3

    Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;

  130. Ray, Wrong key in one sense, right in the other. I’m constantly amazed by both the number of people who do live the standards, and also the resilience of those who stumble and go through the repentance process.

    Grace is a wonderful thing.

  131. Ray,

    It’s amazing how much conviction nerds have. ;-)

  132. Jared, Does everything in the D&C still have to apply today?

    Even if you think so, should an unrepentant fornicator (or for that matter, a serial rapist who has not been caught) serve a mission if he “desires” to do so? Perhaps, “desires to serve God” in this context includes a visible effort to do so previous to being called. (“faith without works is dead”)

    Over-simplifying a verse (or a phrase) doesn’t do anything for a discussion like this. (see my above attempt)

  133. Kyle, I probably could be classified as a nerd now that I am an old man with 6 kids, but back in the day when I was an athlete and a musician . . . I could say I miss those days, but I don’t.

  134. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, D&C 4 is still VERY much in use, and is entirely applicable to the discussion. Don’t take it upon yourself to chastise Jared for an important counterpoint.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting sending unrepentant fornicators on missions — instead the key discussion, on which there are a number of views, is resting upon the issue of to what extent raising the bar has effectively prevented otherwise normal people with righteous desires from being engaged in the work. It is a point worth considering.

  135. I agree, Steve. I wasn’t trying to “chastise” Jared; I was trying to say that “desire to serve” can be interpreted multiple ways and that the emotion alone might not be what the verse is saying. I simply can’t believe that “wanting to serve” in isolation is enough to qualify for missionary service, so I don’t read that phrase that way.

    Having said that, I worded my comment badly, since it does seem like more of an “attack” than I meant it to be.

  136. I inadvertently submitted that last comment without the following:

    I am sorry, Jared, if I came across as chastising you. I did not mean to do so.

  137. Antonio Parr says:

    Lawyers sometimes forum shop, i.e., look for a venue/jurisdiction that is most likely to be sympathetic to the case at hand. The stories set forth above could lead towards a trend of Ward/Stake shopping, i.e., parents of missionary-aged children looking for a Bishop or a Stake President who is more likely to forgive than to condemn. (It would be worth the cost of moving if one could avoid the experience of Kevin K in Comment 121.)

  138. I don’t feel chastised.

    We don’t require potential missionaries to have any standard base of scriptual knowledge. Seminary attendance can be spotty if they even attended and they can still serve a mission. Newly baptized members go on missions after only a year.

    We do require them to repent and sin no more. They must have a testimony (a small one at least or they would not be exercising their faith and going on a mission). They must be willing to work hard and try their best. Missionaries are not perfect even while serving a full time mission but that allows them to help those who are seeking to understand about repentance.

  139. Legal question-

    Could someone actually decide to sue on the basis that they were being discriminated against by not being allowed to serve. It might be tough to prove the repentance part but what about physical qualifications?

  140. a random John says:

    John,

    On my mission one of the members was a young mother that wanted to go on a mission and have her mother care for the child while she was gone. What is your advice in such a circumstance?

    I should also note that we had an elder that came to the mission president and complained that his monthly allowance was not enough to support himself and his child back home. He was on the next bus back home.

  141. 139 – Uhm, churches have every right to discriminate in any way they want to. That’s been covered before, but I don’t feel like finding and linking it.

    137, but right after you move in, they will call a new bishop/stake president, and your screwed!

    135 – Ray, isn’t this the second time you’ve been chastising people today? You’re one mean dude! :)

  142. Antonio – re: shopping for SP/Bishop. You’re absolutley correct. That is happening right now, among many families. We live in an affluent area of Seattle. There are enough stakes to find a home. A couple of close friends have done exactly as you suspected and many others come asking about how things are.

    Jacob M – re: being screwed when they change. That’s also correct. At least with SP, you can kind of guess when things are up. It’s been 9 years this coming May. General Authority is already assigned for our stake conference. The worst may be over soon (or maybe it’s only starting – argh!)

  143. #141 – Yup, I’m a big, bad meanie – at least today. I had a bit of an exchange with a shallow anti- on another site, and I’m afraid my cantankerous side hasn’t gone back to sleep yet. I’ll whip it with a bean pole and be back when it is in full submission.

  144. John Taber says:

    I could go on about this at length – I did on SRM when it first came out – but I’ll try to be brief here.

    President Hinckley said at the leadership training broadcast in 2003 that the problems a missionary has going in, only get compounded on a mission. I’m living proof of that. Under the policies in place today, I would probably have had to wait another year or two, but I would have been a much more effective missionary and would have been in better shape coming home.

    One recurring, contagious problem in my mission was a lack of motivation. No matter how driven you are, if your companion and/or other missionaries in your apartment don’t want to work, it will drag you down. My mission wasn’t anywhere near up to speed until I went home, four years after it was organized with the missionaries the two parent missions didn’t want.

    Twenty years ago when my father was bishop, he had a few 19- and 20-year olds pass on putting in mission papers, because they didn’t think they were good enough to be missionaries. Not that they had anything to repent of, they just saw the missionaries in the ward to be of a higher caliber than they thought they could be. If they had gone, they would have been much better missionaries than the ones in my mission from Orem or Bountiful somewhere who went because everyone else did.

    Along those lines, neither of my MTC companions had read the Book of Mormon before they got there. Not that they didn’t grow in the MTC or the field – we all did, to different degrees. But they would have been better off coming in better prepared.

    And that’s what I see the Brethren’s objective to be. Missionaries, when they enter the MTC, and when they reach the mission field, should be able to literally hit the ground running.

  145. Jonathan K says:

    Many stories from the scriptures would not exist if such a bar would have existed in the past. Under this policy, many prophets and apostles would likewise have never been called. The policy also implies that future leadership of the church will likewise be limited to those who have never had to repent. We wouldn’t want anyone in there like Enos, Alma, Alma the younger, Paul, Moses, etc.

  146. Latter-day Guy says:

    Kevin K, 142,

    You aren’t from Missouri are you? I know a stake like this. Bad, BAAAAD mojo.

  147. Nick,

    Your comment #20 concludes with the following:

    How would anyone feel to be told, “You’re worthy in every other way, but you’re just too FAT to serve the lord.”

    I can read, and I know that you didn’t say that the bishop in your specific case said this to a prospective missionary. But, only a callous and misguided bishop ever would say something like this. The bishops I have known would have found a gentle way to help a young man or young woman face the issue and overcome it. That’s why your statement is so wide of the mark.

    I chose the words “sickeningly sedentary” intentionally. You choose to think I mean that such a sedentary person makes me sick, but you miss the mark. I was referring, rather, to the near certainty that a combination of rich diet and low exercise will likely sicken the person who goes down that path.

  148. And that’s what I see the Brethren’s objective to be. Missionaries, when they enter the MTC, and when they reach the mission field, should be able to literally hit the ground running.

    I think this is very true, but I’m not sure that some of the current requirements have anything to do with an ability to ‘hit the ground running’. I would say that my husband was an absolutely fabulous missionary – but under the current outlined requirements, would not have been able to serve. In addition, I believe, had my husband not served a mission, he probably never would have become a Bishop – or any of the other leadership positions he has held. Why do I say this? Because my husbands mission was not a high conversion mission – baptisms were few and far between for any missionary – but it was fertile ground for training future leaders. If he had stayed home, I’m not sure he would even be active today.

    But he had read all the scriptures before he went and was very aware of doctrinal points – probably more than most 19 year olds – simply because these were things that had interested him all his life and he had studied extensively.

    I just don’t buy the idea that all these missionaries who are straight arrows are also by default, gospel scholars.

    As we speak my husband in in the front room trying to help a boy in our ward who is leaving in a week for the MTC to put together his talk for church on Sunday. This kid is practically socially retarded – and it’s just painful to listen to their conversation – mainly because I am acutely aware of how totally illprepared this kid is to go on a mission. He has poor knowledge of even the most basic gospel stories, scriptures, etc. He’s vague on many doctrinal points.

    But…he’s totally worthy.

  149. Masturbation? They actually ask about that?

    Oh man…

  150. I think a interesting question would be, what ‘bar’ would you set to make sure missionaries are more effective gospel, less likely to be send home prematurely and better to represent the church (whatever you interpret that last part to mean)

  151. I had some mental health issues as a teenager that were never diagnosed and were mostly ignored. I strove for perfection because that seemed to be what was expected. When I didn’t achieve perfection, I punished myself to show my remorse to God (it was a sincere remorse). That punishment was usually carried out by cutting myself. I began cutting myself when I was twelve years old. I think I had disappointed my dad. I cut myself often and whenever I was angry at some failure, or whenever I was convinced of my unworthiness. When I went on my mission, I was terified I would fail and it frankly paralized me. I had to deal with missionaries who flaunted their zeal in spite of obstacles they had to overcome. I was simply a failure in their eyes, and in my own. After cutting myself on my mission (Argentina) I was sent to a mission in the States so that I could see a doctor (I had some real health problems that I thought at the time was Cholera). After cutting myself again, someone informed the MP and I was eventually sent home, with an honorable release. I never felt that it was very honorable. I continued cutting myself and mostly hating my failure until I was 33 years old (3 years ago) when my wife finally found a counselor (I had already been through several) who specialized in self hurting behaviors. I am three years without a new scar! (That is great progress for me) When I went on my mission, I had no idea how to discribe what was going on in my mind or heart. Thankfully, with the help of my wife (who is Baptist) I have become able to more fully embrace the atonement and grace of Jesus Christ, and it has made me a better husband, father and Mormon.

  152. Some thoughts:

    #74 cited a BMI of 37. I plugged values into a calculator and found that to be BELOW 37, you can be at the following height/weight combos:

    5’10″ 257
    6’0″ 272
    6’2″ 287

    Looking back on my mission, you wouldn’t have survived with any of those combos. Even the most overweight elders were under those.

  153. Whither the sister missionary in all this? Used to be that they were marginally encouraged, or at the worst, the bishops were neutral if a sister wanted to serve.

    I am hearing from YW presidents and YW that there is active discouragement now — not in the direct sense of “you shouldn’t go”, but in the “well, that’s really just for the young men, and we don’t encourage sisters to go, because they should really be focused on marriage.”

    I know a lot of 20-something single sisters who are just working post-college, who could have gone on missions, but felt that the church didn’t want them to serve.

    As as the husband of a returned sister missionary, that just sucks.

  154. I always cringe when I hear the term “raising the bar” because I would not be allowed to serve under the current policy.

    When I was in the MTC (July-August 2002, right before the bar) depression started to surface, but I didn’t know what was going on – I thought I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t ‘obedient’ enough. Out in the field I realized something was wrong with me. Luckily I had a mission president that was willing to work with me instead of shipping me home. I saw a psychiatrist (in the middle of Argentina!) and went on medication and my mission turned around for me. Because I went through all these struggles as a missionary, it made me more effective. I was able to see that I was weak and needed Christ just like everyone else. I hate to think what would have happened if I would have been sent home in the MTC or early on in the mission when I was diagnosed with depression. My testimony wouldn’t be where it is today, and I couldn’t have helped people on my mission that were suffering themselves.

  155. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 153 queuno, you may find this thread interesting.

    But if the girl is hot, she is welcome to go on a mission–and gets called to the SLC Visitors Center.

  156. One very important question: Why does everyone assume that this or that missionary would not be able to go on a mission under the new rules? Are we talking about serious, habitual sexual transgression/sin? Are we talking about being morbidly obese? Are we talking about never having read the scriptures and having no understanding of the Gospel?

    If there are few hard set rules (the most obvious ones being no unrepentant missionaries and no morbidly obese missionaries), why is everyone so sure that you wouldn’t have been able to go now? Maybe I am living in a bubble here in Ohio, but I just don’t see worthy young men OR women being kept home over non-serious issues. Is that happening on a widespread basis?

  157. Scattershots:

    I got a list of the returned missionaries in our ward, and maybe I’ll have to submit a guest post on it somewhere, sometime. Statistically, the returned missionaries in our North Texas ward had a better chance of serving a foreign mission if they were a sister than an elder. Of course, those missions all predate the raising of the bar. But maybe it’s a marketing tool: “Young women: Go on a mission and go to Europe! Young men: Pull out those Idaho traveler books!”

    So I’ll have to tell my daughter to keep herself pretty, and then she’ll be able to serve? Hmm, good plan. Maybe I can get her to drop math camp next summer and save me some bucks.

    One of our stake presidency members commented that the number of missionaries from our stake has increased since the bar was raised. I wonder if that’s really true, or if it’s due to the fact that we are experiencing 75% annual growth in some wards, and those kids are going on missions.

  158. But if the girl is hot, she is welcome to go on a mission–and gets called to the SLC Visitors Center.

    I, for one, am absolutely gorgeous, and I got called to serve in North Carolina. ;-) (I’m so humble, too.) Seriously, the local men were awestruck that I had all of my teeth. I’m not making it up.

  159. Ray – I still have family in Ohio (and in 4 other states). What I have heard from talking to various sibs is that a bishop doesn’t necessarily have to approve the application if he feels that the young man/woman has done NO preparation.

    It’s not just about serious sin. It’s not just about having mental/emotional issues. It’s not just about being healthy enough to serve. Certainly, there are unwritten and written guidelines about those and we can argue the appropriateness of these all day.

    But I also understand that prospective elders had better done more in their preparation than just avoid bad things. They had better actually “prepared” themselves or the bishop has latitude to say, “You know? Maybe you’d better have come to Church, maybe have a testimony, etc.”

    I have a brother out right now in the field, and his reports before his mission was that bishops in his wards (both at home and at BYU) were indicating that some preparation had to occur before one left. Missionary service was no longer a given just because certain disqualifiers hadn’t been met.

    Do we want to call on a mission a young man who has never prayed, doesn’t know if he has a testimony, or hasn’t read the Book of Mormon? For a stateside mission, they have three weeks in the MTC. Is that enough prep time? Prior to raising the bar, it would have been considered to be OK. Now, probably not. And I think that’s a good thing.

  160. Keri – I have relatives who have served in West Virginia and Tennessee. They report the same thing. :)

  161. John Taber says:

    But I also understand that prospective elders had better done more in their preparation than just avoid bad things. They had better actually “prepared” themselves or the bishop has latitude to say, “You know? Maybe you’d better have come to Church, maybe have a testimony, etc.”

    And at least a couple of the guys my dad tried to work with would have met the standard there, they just didn’t feel they kept up with the missionaries’ outer appearance. Bishops now will be able to say, well, here’s what the Brethren expect.

    The intent here is not simply to weed out. It’s to give those who want to serve, plan on serving, a standard to work toward. Sure, I would have had to wait. But I would have taken preparation much more seriously. I know at least some of those I served with would have too.

  162. I lost 50 pounds ON my mission. Not before my mission, but on it. I honestly would probably not have made it on a mission under these new guidelines. I’m sure the local bishop and stake president would have been looser with the guidelines, basing it on the conversations they would have had with me, and prayer.

  163. Jonathan K says:

    I think that the only thing that matters for missionary work (and for life in general) is the strength of your conviction & your personal relationship with God. Nothing else really matters, including your past or your level of preparation.

    I can see how the ideal could be for better prepared missionaries who committed their lives at the time of baptism and on, but very few fit into the ideal. Young teenage years are not the time to push someone mildly interested in church over the top and into inactivity because they aren’t fully committed yet.

  164. Chuck McKinnon says:

    John Mansfield #104: I think comment #114 is a good illustration of the other side of the coin. The choice is not so simple as you make it out to be.

  165. #163 – Jonathon, how can you separate a 19-year-old’s “strength of conviction & personal relationship with God” from his “past or level of preparation”? Do you really think the latter has no bearing on the former?

  166. Not enough time right now to read all of the comments, but I did want to add a few things to this….

    I know a few young men in my YSA ward right now who are preparing to go on missions. Some have dealt with sexual sin with the patterns mentioned here (multiple occasions, multiple partners, etc.). The policy I’m seeing is that once the sin is repented of, there must be a lengthy period of time to show that the behaviors are truly in the past and not going to be a problem in the mission field. Our stake prez put the minimum at one year.

    And in the slacker vs. sinner missionary debate, I would prefer the slacker. I was taught by the Spirit much more than by the missionaries, so my criteria for a good missionary is one who allows and helps the Spirit be present at lessons. A sinner may be a great teacher, but they may keep out the only teacher I would’ve ever listened to during my conversion process.

  167. I just got my mission call today; so I am excited about this topic. I encountered no opposition due to being female, or recently being on depression medications.

    and I agree with Norbert’s #101.

  168. Women who violate the law of chastity have always — inside the church and out — suffered from the one strike and you’re out penalty.

    What? Ardis, that’s just nuts.

  169. My current boyfriend–one I can picture myself marrying one day–was not able to go on a mission. Not because he’d had sex, or was morbidly obese, but because he was required to have regular surgeries. He has a better understanding of the gospel than most of the goof-off boys that go out. His not having gone was an issue for his exes, and definitely causes him some degree of social stigma here at BYU. I’m glad that I couldn’t have cared less, as soon as I knew the reason why, and didn’t just accept the “must marry an RM” mantra.

    My ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, did serve a mission, though he did not take the gospel all that seriously, in my opinion, and seemed to have a more cavalier attitude on issues of morality.

    I am very glad that my boyfriend remained active in the Church: in response to some of the posts on here, there are guys who don’t go who remain faithful.

    I, on the other hand, have always felt very strongly that going on a mission will be the best decision for me, and something that God approves of. I definitely feel that there is a stigma for this desire–that marriage should be more important to me at this time in my life. Is it so absurd to think that the Lord could reveal to a woman, “You need to go on a mission,” and to a man, “You do not need to go on a mission.”?

    I think it is the same people who judge men who don’t go unfairly that judge women who do desire to serve. I would hope that Heavenly Father would accept my efforts and those of the people I love to serve him, even if they aren’t through the “typical” route.

  170. I like this part of D&C 4:

    And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.

    (emphasis mine)

    It’s one thing to be called, but you shouldn’t be able to go if you’re not qualified. These qualifications strike me as the only important ones, and they include everything necessary for a missionary. Let’s not build a hedge around the law, let’s use the qualifications the Lord gave us.

  171. Maybe the church should look again at sending older men on missions, even married fathers, like in all days past. Forget sending these wet-behind-the-ears kids who MIGHT have issues. Send adults who have overcome those issues who you can trust will be closer to the Spirit.

  172. This is to Kevin K. Your Stake President has had an abusive relationship with your son. Don’t let his happen — Be a man. Just because he’s a Stake President doesn’t mean that every action in his life is inspired. It’s your son. C’mon.

  173. djinn and others:

    Thanks for the advise. I wish I’d found this place earlier.

    While going through the whole process, it always seemed like the end was just around the corner – and the end goal was for my son to go on a mission (his goal, not necessarily mine). So we kept sticking with it.

    When the last broken promise occurred, I had walked into sacrament meeting late. The SP was on the stand (our home ward – he actually was a personal friend years ago). My wife leaned over and whispered what had happened – that we were all on hold AGAIN. I got up and walked out of sacrament meeting and didn’t return for 6 months. During that period, they finally processed his call.

    In deference to my son, now excited and actively engaged in his mission, I have wandered back to sacrament meeting, from time to time. The anger that still exists keeps me from fully participating – I know it’s my problem, but right now, it’s as much as I can do.

    I got great advice from a friend of mine (coincidently called to be a MP during the same time frame). He said, it’s alright to “choose” to be offended for awhile. His kids had been abused by a church authority years before, and he remained “offended” for many years. It was his protective mechanism.

    I still have two more sons at home, and I can tell you things are VERY differnet now. Used to be at the first sign of trouble (a porn site on a computer, a magazine picture, etc.), we’d have them sit down with the Bishop – kinda to wake them up. That AIN’T happenin’ no more!! Now my wife and I take it ourselves.

    Maybe in the end, it’s better this way?

    Anecdotally – my wife went to see a therapist about this – an LDS guy, but kind of “out there”. He’s done some writing and really seems to have a good sense of Gospel vs. Church. Anyhow, she starts telling him about the issues – he immediately pinpoints our stake and ward and tells her he’s been keeping busy with the entire stake! Everything turned out well, with him, at least. And like I said – only a few months to go. God only knows what happens next, literally.

  174. phryne/167 – Congratulations? Care to share where?

    CK/169 – I think there are good bishops who support sisters in their desires to serve. I think that there are bishops who perhaps are a little more close-minded. Unfortunately, finding them seems to be completely random. Where I live, we send out a LOT of elders. Sisters, not so much.

    I don’t have much expectation, I guess, of bishops encouraging young women to prepare to go on missions. I have come to the realization that it’s an activity for the parents, and then just cross our fingers she doesn’t get a bishop who tries too hard to talk her out of it.

  175. Congratulations! Not “congratulations?”

  176. #174 – “I have come to the realization that it’s an activity for the parents.”

    Best comment in the entire thread, imo.

    #173 – Kevin K, I sincerely hope this doesn’t sound trite, but if that was the only way you could learn the lesson that you seemed to learn (and your son is serving a mission), then perhaps it will be a good thing in the long run. I do NOT mean to imply that what happened was “right” or “the Lord’s will for you” or anything like that. I don’t believe that. I also don’t mean to minimize the pain and troubles of others in your stake. I simply have learned in my own life and from others that some of the greatest lessons we learn come from trials we would not wish on our enemies.

    God Bless You and your family.

  177. endlessnegotiation says:

    The whole “raise the bar” attitude provides further evidence to me that as a Church we preach repentance but don’t actually believe in it. Frankly, experience has convinced me that the Church’s failure to believe in repentance is the primary stumbling block to retention of new converts.

  178. Really, en? I thought they left because we hit them with sticks.

  179. I just returned from teaching the last lesson of Temple Prep to a new elder getting ready to go on a mission. From the day he became a deacon, I have observed him as a dedicated, service-oriented priesthood holder, a good friend and example to those around him, and a guy who enjoyed the fun things of the world, but only when his duties were done. He recently gave a talk at stake conference with more maturity and focus than an 18-year old has a right, and in class today answered most of the questions dead on.

    If a friend wanted to know more about the Gospel, I’d want the missionary I send him to be just like this young man. If “raising the bar” means boys preparing themselves more seriously, to take the path this elder has taken, then I’ll raise my hand to it. Twice.

  180. #177 – “experience has convinced me that the Church’s failure to believe in repentance is the primary stumbling block to retention of new converts.”

    I guess we attend different churches. The biggest stumbling blocks in our area now are the same as in every area where I’ve lived over the past thirty years: lack of transportation among the poor, culture shock, pressure from non-member family and friends, difficulty obeying the Word of Wisdom, lack of proper fellowshipping/acceptance, racial homogeneity, travel distance to meetings, inability to separate the ideal we preach and the reality we live, personal conflict and offense, lack of solid religious habits (read, pray, attend), etc. If anything, the Church’s insistence on repentance (change of action) derails more potential baptisms and recent conversions than some kind of failure to believe in it. That’s my experience, at least.

  181. I should add that there surely are individual Bishops and Stake Presidents who are too strict in their judgment of a repentant member, but that’s a far cry from “the Church’s failure to believe in repentance.”

  182. Jonathan K says:

    #165 – Ray – my thinking is that the two could (and probably should) have a bearing on each other, but that it shouldn’t be required to in all cases. Just as some fall away at 18, some also turn to the church at 18 and receive a testimony and conviction that they previously didn’t have. And in an extreme example, this could include someone who’s even been in and out of prison or gangs and now wants to serve and help bring others to see his new-found light.

    Again, I can see the wisdom in setting a high ideal, but if there really is a rule about having a felony and you’re automatically out, I would tend to question that.

  183. thanks queuno, I’m going to Argentina.

  184. a random John says:

    I agree with Ray’s #180. Those are the reasons that we lose new converts. I also think that endlessnegotiation has a point in #177, but that point applies much more to members born in the church and other long time members than to nuew converts.

  185. #182 – Thanks for the clarification, Jonathon.

  186. I just returned from teaching the last lesson of Temple Prep to a new elder getting ready to go on a mission. From the day he became a deacon, I have observed him as a dedicated, service-oriented priesthood holder, a good friend and example to those around him, and a guy who enjoyed the fun things of the world, but only when his duties were done. He recently gave a talk at stake conference with more maturity and focus than an 18-year old has a right, and in class today answered most of the questions dead on.

    If a friend wanted to know more about the Gospel, I’d want the missionary I send him to be just like this young man. If “raising the bar” means boys preparing themselves more seriously, to take the path this elder has taken, then I’ll raise my hand to it. Twice.

    but David don’t you think it’s possible to be this type of person and still make a mistake, which under the current policy, would prevent you from serving a mission?

    We have a boy very much like this in our Stake and he’s just a really great, mature, kid in the best possible way. But this past year since he turned 18 he had a girlfriend – I am close to this boys mother which is the only reason I know his circumstances – and he and his girlfriend have not had sex, but have come very close. And the current leadership in our Stake are asking him to wait 9 months before turning in his papers. He’s 19, he’s ready to go, he broke up with the girlfriend 4 months ago. I think he will wait the time and go, but I know that right now it’s tough for him. The SP doesn’t want him to date at all during the interim. I’m sure many would say that’s the price he has to pay if he wants to be a missionary, and that’s probably true. However, 20 years ago this kid could have gone next week and been a great missionary. I’m absolutely convinced that he could leave tomorrow and be fabulous on his mission. He will follow all the rules, he’s well versed in the gospel, he’ll make a great companion, he’s got a great testimony and I absolutely think he’s a very spiritual young man.

    There is a comment earlier that said something along the lines of they’d rather see slackers go than sinners. To which I have to say…WHAT? We’re all sinners. We aren’t suggesting it’s a good idea to send a boy who is unrepentant, willful and actively engaged in doing anything that would deter him from being a good missionary. People who’ve committed a sin and repented can still be in tune with the spirit – the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive! In fact, it seems to me it’s possible that the sinner who has repented could have a stronger connection with the spirit than the unprepared slacker.

  187. John 178, they leave because we’re boring.

  188. #70
    Since I’ve been doing “stats” research lately *grin* I pulled the numbers for you because they are interesting:

    2001-
    292,612 convert baptisms
    60,850 full time missionaries
    2002-
    283,138-convert baptisms
    61,638-missionaries
    (788 more missionaries but 9,474 less baptisms)
    2003-
    242,943- convert baptisms
    56,239-missionaries
    2004-
    241,239 convert baptisms
    51,063 missionaries
    2005
    243,198 convert baptisms
    52,060 missionaries
    2006
    272,845 convert baptisms
    53,164 missionaries

    After the “bar policy” the numbers of both converts and missionaries declined but that they are now steadily rising.

    If you divide the number of convert baptisms by half the number of missionaries (because they serve in teams)the trend is the same in ratio of baptisms to companionships-and they jumped a whole percentage point from 2005-2006

    2001-2006
    9.6-9.0-8.6-9.4-9.2-10.2

  189. 106-Who?

    The all-time low for baptisms per missionary was late 2005, after the new policy had taken effect.

    According to graph in your link, “the all time low” for baptisms per missionary wasn’t 2005-it was 1974, right in the middle of a 5 year stretch of years LOWER than 2005.

    If missionaries are better prepared, the numbers should go up, not down. If the policy were working, there would be some indication in the results.

    The numbers are going back up and the ratio was higher in 2006 than it was in 2001 or 2002.

  190. One more and I’ll shut up-I just like to share interesting insights.

    The ratio had been dropping steadily from its high point around 1989ish and reached 4.5 in 2000-BEFORE the new policy/talk by Elder Ballard. If his talk signified that the policy had just begun, then 2003 would have been the first year that the policy affected out-going missionaries but the field wouldn’t be populated with entirely “post policy” missionaries until 2004.

    Between 2002 and 2004-the number of missionaries dropped by 10,575 missionaries-but the ratio of converts per missionary INCREASED-and in 2006 they reached a ratio that hasn’t existed since 1998-with fewer missionaries.

  191. bandanamom,

    The boy you’ve described sounds like he’ll make a great missionary. I’m sorry he ran into that snag. I can’t speak for his SP– particularly since I don’t have the insight & promptings he’s had– but I will acknowledge that, unfortunately, decisions handed down can vary from leader to leader. And if the young man has the mettle you believe he has, this experience will probably make him that much stronger.

    Barring his close call, your friend’s son and my elder don’t sound much different. I’ve no doubt the doors he enters will be blessed. As for the slacker vs. sinner debate, that’s like saying, would you rather die by fire or drowning. How about neither?

  192. By definition aren’t slackers sinners to?

  193. MCQ-#170

    I love that whole chapter and it describes that those who embark in the service of God should serve Him with all their “heart, might, mind and strength” so that they can stand “blameless before God at the last day”. It says to “remember faith, virtue (chastity), knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”

    Between the two talks listed, I think that is what the message is…and as parents, we are responsible to teach our children how to gain a testimony, how to study and understand the gospel, and how to work hard and be as dedicated mentally and physically as they can be.

    If our children are raised in LDS homes but are not taught those things, we will be held accountable-not the Church or the Bishop or the YW/YM leaders. Elder Ballard’s talk was directed at the Aaronic priesthood of 2002 and their father’s and bishops so that any young man NOT currently engaged in the behaviors and habits “required” for service in the Lord’s army (he included YW and so did the prophet who commented afterwards)could begin the repentance/learning/preparations that would be expected of them in the future.

  194. Tosh–

    Actually, even though Elder Ballard’s first “official” statement of the policy was in 2002, he had been talking about it in stake conferences for at least five years prior. After he spoke at a Seattle stake leadership meeting in 1997, my mother’s stake president passed around notes of the meeting. Among other things, Elder Ballard specifically stated that young men and women with mental and emotional difficulties were not to be recommended for full-time missionary service, as their problems got in the way of the work; they ended up being babysat and counseled by companions, mission presidents, and others, and what ought to be a blessing for them all too often turned into a nightmare. (Been there, done that.) He also said that it would be better for them to serve as stake missionaries, which would count as their service, rather than to live through the trauma of having to return home early.

  195. Many stories from the scriptures would not exist if such a bar would have existed in the past. Under this policy, many prophets and apostles would likewise have never been called. The policy also implies that future leadership of the church will likewise be limited to those who have never had to repent. We wouldn’t want anyone in there like Enos, Alma, Alma the younger, Paul, Moses, etc.

    I totally agree.

    And try explaining cutting off a bunch of gang members arms, or missing the mission transfer bus because you were swallowed by a whale, or choping off a drunk guys head in a alley, none of which would pass the “bar” test either.

  196. Terry,

    My comments were based on “when” the requirements for missionary service changed or the bar was officially raised by the Church-not Brother Ballard. A letter went out in December of 2002 from the First Presidency to local Church leadership.

  197. #195-

    Many stories from the scriptures would not exist if such a bar would have existed in the past.
    Under this policy, many prophets and apostles would likewise have never been called. The policy also implies that future leadership of the church will likewise be limited to those who have never had to repent. We wouldn’t want anyone in there like Enos, Alma, Alma the younger, Paul, Moses, etc.

    I totally agree

    The policy does NOT imply that only missionaries who have never had to repent can serve missions. It makes it clear that proper and full repentance is required, and for the right reasons, FIRST. None of the prophets you mention above were called to lead the Church UNTIL they had become converted to the truth (often in direct consequence of their sinful behavior) and repented first.

    And try explaining cutting off a bunch of gang members arms, or missing the mission transfer bus because you were swallowed by a whale, or choping off a drunk guys head in a alley, none of which would pass the “bar” test either.

    All would have passed the test because none of them were sins. Jonah is the only one that comes close, but being swallowed by a whale was the consequence of his disobedience, not an act of sin itself.

  198. I would just like to say that this post must have been inspired as the speaker in church today spoke about raising the bar and worthiness.

  199. S/he must have read this blog. Well done, Steve. You have affected what is taught in Sacrament Meeting.

  200. Does anybody remember that the bar was raised in 1992 or 1993 as well? Did it go back down after that for a while?

    I remember. Good times. Excerpts from the letters:

    “Full-time missionary service is not a right, but a privilege for those who are called through inspiration by the First Presidency. …

    To ensure the requisite worthiness, an individual who has committed serious transgression must have fully repented according to the criteria established by the Savior. The candidate must be completely worthy to enter the temple before being recommended for missionary service. … The individual [must be] free of transgression for sufficient time to manifest true repentance and to prepare spiritually for a sacred mission call. This period could be as long as three years for multiple serious transgressions, and should not be less than a year from the most recent transgression” (First Presidency letters, Mar. 4 and Oct. 21, 1993).

  201. Kevin K.

    First of all, let me tell you how much I admire your son. If he truly went through all that you say he did, then he is an example of patience, dedication, obedience and many other qualities you should be proud of. I know of many young men who would have viewed that experience as the perfect excuse not to serve and/or to never attend Church again. That he submitted to such a trial and went anyway says more about him than you realize.

    That said, something you wrote has been on my mind all day, and my heart is full tonight regarding it.

    Christ’s atonement was a free gift to all men. He did not put worthiness clauses into it. Yet many local authorities retain the right to do so. Have we truly lost the nature of the Gospel?

    Christ’s atonement had two purposes-one unconditional and one conditional. The unconditional part is the gift of eternal life or immortality that was freely offered to all mankind. Everyone will be resurrected. The conditional part is redemption from sin. That gift is offered only to those who repent, change their ways, and follow Christ. Not everyone will be exalted.

    In that respect, the Atonement does have a worthiness clause for each of us. The gentleman who spoke in our ward today said it this way- “We all made the choice in the pre-existence to live forever. The choices we make in mortality will determine WHERE we live forever.”

    Not all mistakes are sins, and those who have never been taught the laws are not judged by them. “Sin” is willful disregard or refusal to obey the laws of God, and those who have been taught the laws of God are accountable for the choices they make regarding them. Repentance is a gift and a blessing, and those who have the chance to repent here in mortality and take advantage of the Atonement but choose not to, will pay the price for their own sins later, in far more painful and restrictive ways.

    Our perfect, sinless, and eternal Savior voluntarily submitted to and endured the physical, spiritual, and emotionally agonizing consequences of all of our sins, when He had never committed even one of His own. He was the only person qualified to accept that mission and without Him, we would all have been lost.

    It is vital that we understand that and teach our children the important and sacred nature of the Atonement and the sanctifying aspects of the repentance process. I often wonder if we comprehend the Atonement and the supreme act of love and mercy that it is, or if we view it more like some kind of eternal debit account that magically restores the balance in our account when it’s overdrawn? Do we teach our kids that all they have to do is express a certain amount of regret and/or suffer for a certain amount of time for each sin and then it simply vanishes, or are we teaching them that in truth, only a change of heart and obedience to the commandments of God makes us worthy for a complete remission of our sins?

  202. #10 – why is it wrong to have a stigma against those who did not go? The brethren have never said only perfect missionaries get to go, only those that TRY. Do you sincerely regret what you did? Then you get to go.

    There should be a stigma after you fail to pass the bar. It is not permanent; it passes. After a few years, no one really cares. Yes some silly girls still cling to that, and some silly people in the “old guard” families in the church. Given that young men can serve until they are 24/25 ish (I had a companion who was 26), I really think if a young man can’t get his act together at some point, between 19-24, yeah, he did mess up.

    Who’s to say he won’t clean up and be a perfectly good husband? No one. But the truth is, he did not clean himself up at the right time.

    #56 – It doesn’t really matter what your view is, nor even what the “lay” leader’s is. Forget the lay leader – What does the PROPHET say about the matter.

  203. I guess what strikes me a little bit about what you are saying tosh is that we can’t really determine if someone has truly repented or not until it’s been proven by their subsequent and prolonged behavior. But the truth is that God knows what that will do. He doesn’t really have to wait the year or two or three that the SP might require.

    So I guess the question is where do we draw the line? Should there be manditory minimum sentences where sin is concerned? Or do we leave that in the hands of the local leadership to determine on a case by case basis?

    There can be serious problems no matter how you choose to look at it.

    As to the whole slacker vs. sinner debate…

    My point was that I would rather have a former sinner than a current slacker, if that’s not an option then I would like the current slacker over the current sinner, former slacker vs former sinner is a toss – up for me.

    I also don’t want to process anything bought sold or buy anything processed and sold or sell anything sold and processed…but that’s a different discussion. :)

  204. #64 – you have no idea. Why do people get hung up on this one strike idea? Why are the loudest voices refusing to listen to the bishops, et. al. who are posting saying that many young men are coming in, repenting, and serving? Perhaps they know someone, who said they were repenting, but did not. Alma was in a coma for 3 days. And as he describes it, it sounds like a busy 3 days in hellish torment.

    #67 – True, the numbers are down. But numbers never mattered. Quality. Are we getting better converts?

    #106 – you misread the chart (thanks for the link) – the low numbers were in 2003, the ratio is going up – guess the raising the bar is generating more converts! HA

  205. tosh:

    Thanks for your kind words about my son – it is exactly as you said, and he is the most valiant person I have ever met. It’s strange when your children turn out to be so further advanced than you, particularly while they are yet so young (in the mortal sense). We spent MANY tearful nights talking into the wee hours with him and his friends (also trying to qualify for mission service). In the end, they all went and are doing very well.

    I really appreciate your comments on the atonement. I’m hoping one of the permanent writers here will kick off a discussion on this exact point.

    I have struggled myself for many years with the concept and implications of a “conditional” atonement. Clearly that was my initial inclinations, as I had been taught this through almost fifty years of Primary, Sunday School, MIA and other classes. I don’t mean that to sound trite – this is how established a spiritual foothold, even testimony.

    And now, as I see the world through slightly different viewpoint, new conditions emerge. I have also read all over and have tried to reconcile the two notions. Perhaps you have stumbled on a simple way to explain it. I’m not there, yet – perhaps I will evolve. Some thoughts that keep me from fully embracing this notion:

    Virtually all sins are equal.
    No sin is accepatble, therefore all sinners are equal.
    No amount of effort on our part can close the gap.
    Do we believe Christ, not just believe IN Christ?
    He said he would take care of all shortcomings.

    Like I said – I don’t know where I am on this, other than still struggling. I will ponder your concepts and add them to my general knowledge base. The truth is out there, it just takes some struggle on my part to really grasp it.

  206. PS Just a note – our SP just got called to be MP in summer.

  207. I would be interested to see what kind of additional guidance bishops and SPs are getting to help them administer the raising of the bar, that is, if they are getting any additional guidance.

    My best friend, and the one who taught and baptized me before he left on his own mission, was one of the “repent and go” missionaries. By all accounts, even his own, he was a mediocre, if not bad, missionary and he went inactive within 6 months of coming home. I remember being with him the last time he drank alcohol and looked at porn- it was the night before his interview with the SP, and he left on his mission about 4 months later.

    The way I understood this counsel originally (I was on my own mission when it was first announced) was that young men would need significant periods of probation and repentance before being able to serve a mission. Based on the comments, it sounds like some are being blackballed for life based on some more serious sins. That sounds pretty harsh to me, especially since I agree that missionaries who have had that repentance experience, CAN but not necessarily will be better missionaries.

    The problem with the whole raising the bar is that it is always going to be both over- and underinclusive. You will have some who never go on a mission because of the requirements who could have been great missionaries if given the chance and could have done a lot of good, for themselves and others. On the other hand, you will get some missionaries who are “worthy” and ready, but who serve so-so or great missions, and then come home and leave the Church. Unless you think Bishops and SPs actually do have that secret voodoo mind-reading power we all talk about, then this will always be the case. Even they cannot always see the end from the beginning.

    I think the Church as a whole also needs to adjust its expectations if we are really going to insist on more worthy missionaries. That means less missionaries, and less baptisms, because YES even bad missionaries can baptize a lot of people (but not generally high-quality converts- but you give everyone the chance.)

    The other related issue that bugs me is when someone claims that the mission was when they were at their best. I had a buddy who had a girlfriend and her father told her to judge him based on the kind of missionary he had been (they served in the same mission at the same time), because no one was ever better than they had been on their mission. If so, why bother? I think I am much improved since I was on my mission. If it was all downhill from there, how sad would that be? Of course, I don’t have the time/opportunity to serve the Lord in the same way I did when I was a missionary, but I think that in many ways I am a better disciple than I was then.

  208. One of the hardest tasks of a priesthood leader is to discern whether a ym is truly repents or is faking it. Most turn to their SP for guidance since the mission approval must come from the stake.

    There is no manual for repentance since it is an individual’s personal journey. I like the advice of a SP from Minnesota who warned that some elders would not be ready to serve a mission even in their 50′s and 60′s because they were unable to order their lives in such a way to serve others.

    It seems unwise to rubber stamp all who want go on a mission without discerning whether they intend to serve while they are out on the frontlines.

  209. anon for this says:

    I’m coming to this discussion late, but wanted to add my experience. Before the age of 16, my son confessed to our bishop issues regarding masturbation. He was kept from ordination as a priest for about 1 1/2 years because of this. I was really proud of him for his honesty, because I would be willing to bet that this is not an uncommon thing for priests blessing the sacrament. I told him that self-control in this area was something he should aim for, but I saw it as a minor thing, part of normal sexual development. (The bishop set time-table schedules of months without recurrence before he would allow ordination.) The stigma of not being able to participate in his priests quorum kept my son feeling out of place and although he had a strong testimony and desire to be righteous, he spiraled into depression. I was really afraid that he would be turned off from church activity altogether. But he continued to try, though he felt the rejection of the church. As a senior, although he really wanted to attend BYU, there was a big question whether this hard-line bishop would sign a recommendation for him. (I confided in my father who had served as a bishop multiple times and was at this time serving as a BYU bishop. He said my home ward bishop was being too hard-line and punishing about this issue.) The bishop was finally persuaded of my son’s repentance, my son went to BYU and had a very warm relationship with his freshman bishop who helped instill in my son some faith and confidence in himself — he also had some help with BYU counselors and group counseling. As a freshman my son was still on anti-depressants and was told when he was putting in his papers that if he wanted to be called to a foreign mission, he had to be off the anti-depressants. If he was fine with a mission in the States, he could go while on the medication. He wanted to be considered for a foreign mission, so he went off the anti-depressants. In 2005 he left on a mission to Europe, and served well and faithfully and in leadership positions. During the mission, however, anxiety resurfaced and his mission president supported him in resuming his anti-depressants and there wasn’t any talk about sending him home or reassigning him. My son recently returned and his mission experience was a great experience for him. I shudder to think what would have been lost if that hard-line bishop had turned my son off from church participation. But I wonder if the hard process my son engaged in of self-understanding and repentance is part of what made him a more committed and faithful and hard-working missionary. He certainly considered serving a mission to be a privilege.

  210. In Elder Perry’s talk on raising the bar, which is linked at the end of Brother Evan’s post, there are one very short paragraph plus a couple of three-word phrases elsewhere that touch on transgression. The talk is about preparation. Over half of the comments on this web site, in contrast, are focused on transgression.

  211. “Missionary work is extremely demanding. If you have emotional challenges that can be stabilized to meet the rigors of a full-time mission, you can be called. It is vital that you continue to use your medication during your mission or until competent medical authority counsels otherwise.”–Elder Richard Scott, October 2003 conference.

  212. 96 and 209 recount Bishops treating masturbation as a sin and delaying priesthood ordination or a mission calling because of it. From 96, “My husband was told by the SP that this was the guideline from Salt Lake.”

    Hmmm. Since I’m not going to discourage my kids on this front (other than cautions against excess), this could create an interesting conflict in a few years. Perhaps once my children leave primary, I’ll need to interview the Biship and Stake President with regards to the type of questions they might ask my kids about sexuality.

  213. I agree with you John and I think that ultimately what Church leaders want from missionaries is the same thing that Heavenly Father and Christ want from all of us-dedicated servants who actually KNOW the gospel AND have a testimony of it, who treat their bodies like temples, who view sexuality as a sacred, God-given gift with an appropriate time and place for expression, and who understand that the honor of representing God and His gospel is part of the baptismal covenant from which there is no honorable release.

  214. #197 Tosh

    1. Thank you for your serious and thoughtful analysis of my lame attempt at humor.

    2. Due to my lame attempt at humor, I advise that all of my future postings should be read with your sarcasm detector set to the “on” position.

    3. I still totally agree with the comment I previously totally agreed with in #195.

    4. I will instruct my kids to chop arms and heads of the wicked at will, and to feel no guilt in the event they are swallowed by an enormous water based mammal.

    5. Numbered responses make me angry.

  215. Talon-
    1. You’re welcome
    2. Will do
    3. You are certainly free to
    4. Will you instruct them to discern between their will and God’s? I never said Jonah wasn’t guilty, I said his sin wasn’t being swallowed.
    5. I’ll keep that in mind.

  216. I post on the same topic about a month ago
    discussing some personal problems. Matt
    Thurston offered some good comments
    about the
    atonement covering many of the lapses by
    recent converts like myself or boys that made
    mistakes.

  217. Matt Thurston and I debated this very subject
    on my blog in a post entitled Raising the Bar
    Absolute Moral Worthiness
    . Matt said:
    “I think the phrase “perception is reality” applies to self-perception as well. Your sense of self as a Sinner, as being “in the hot seat,” as being below the bar, as sometimes having “felt a sense of failure” are not absolute and objective, but somewhat malleable and subjective.

    So while I’m in favor of a “bar” for any kind of position or service (religious or otherwise), when it comes to missionary service, I place a higher/stronger emphasis on desire, intent, effort, humility, etc. than the unweildy and unforgiving club of “absolute moral worthiness.””

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